Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort to reopen Monday

Thursday 14th May 2020

SUQUAMISH - The Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort will reopen gaming and dining on Monday, Port Madison Enterprises, the tribe's economic development arm, has announced.

The move comes as non-tribal entertainment venues remain shuttered around the state under Gov. Jay Inslee's state-at-home order during the coronavirus outbreak.

PME said that it would implement a series of COVID-19 safety procedures, including reducing the number of people allowed in the facility, temperature checks for everyone entering and mask requirements for employees and guests.

A PME official was not made available to comment on the reopening of the facility, which has been closed since mid-March in response to the coronavirus outbreak. In an email to the Kitsap Sun, a PME spokeswoman said the agency would not be doing press interviews over the next week or two "as every single day could change."

"We here at PME and the Suquamish Tribe are really excited to welcome you back to the beautiful Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort," PME CEO Rion Ramirez said in a video posted on the casino's website. "Our guest and employee safety are our top priority."

In an email, Mike Faulk, a spokesman for Inslee's office, said the governor had spoken to tribal leaders and said that, "While he doesn't agree that casinos should be open, we do not have jurisdiction over what happens on tribal lands as they are sovereign nations. We remain concerned about the spread of the virus."

If casinos were not on tribal lands, Faulk said, they would likely be in Phase 3 of Inslee's reopening plan, with other indoor entertainment.

In the video, Ramirez said the facility had been deep cleaned and as it reopened would be held at 60% capacity to provide more space for guests and staff. When the casino reopens, slot machines, the cage, the player's club, hotel accommodations and limited dining services will be available, according to PME's announcement.

Initially, Ramirez said, table games would be closed for at least a week, and when they do reopen, fewer seats will be available.

In dining areas, seating capacity will be reduced. PME said that all patrons at restaurants will be required to provide their name and contact information and said that all parties and tables would be limited to a maximum of five guests.

"At entry, every guest, employee and vendor will have their temperature taken via a thermal camera," Ramirez said. "Any person displaying any known symptoms of COVID-19 including a cough, shortness of breath or a fever will be asked to visit us another time. Employees will be provided masks and required to wear them during their shift. Guests will be required to wear self-provided masks and are encouraged to bring gloves as well."

At slot machines, guests won't be allowed to play at adjacent games. Once a patron is finished at a machine, they'll be asked to turn on its service light so an employee can sanitize it for the next player.

In a statement about the reopening, Ramirez noted that the tribe made the decision to close down the casino voluntarily to protect tribal members, employees and guests.

But, he said, "Our businesses are 100 percent taxed, and supply the resources necessary for the Suquamish Tribal Government to operate and provide essential governmental services for its citizens and the surrounding community."

Ramirez said that Kitsap County has seen "a tremendous flattening of its local curve; accordingly, the Suquamish Tribe has made the decision to reopen its Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort in a thoughtful and responsible manner beginning on May 18, 2020."

On Wednesday, the Stillaguamish Tribe's Angel of the Winds Casino Resort reopened in Arlington, reportedly the first casino to resume operations in western Washington after a wave of the facilities closed during the outbreak. The Seattle television station KING 5 reported that a long line of vehicles appeared at the reopened facility, and that tribal police there were asking drivers to turn around.

"We thank you for your patience and encourage you to stay local and game local during this time," Ramirez said the video. "Moreover, we just can't wait to welcome you back on May 18."

Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.

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