Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Reopens, All New York Tribal Casinos Now Operating

Posted on August 31, 2020

After a slight delay, the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino reopening is in full swing. The tribal casino in Hogansburg, NY, has reopened to the public with restrictions in place intended to avoid another shutdown.

It’s the latest chapter in the New York casino industry’s attempt to mitigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while keeping its workforce employed. That will depend on guests’ compliance with the protocols.

Details on the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino reopening

As of Monday, Aug. 31, the tribe is welcoming gamblers in its facility again. The St. Regis Mohawk tribe originally planned to return to action in late July, but eight employees tested positive for coronavirus at that time.

Along with its game and security staff, the casino has a workforce of 40 housekeepers to keep things sanitized. There are other changes to the customer experience as well, including:

  • Mandatory wearing of face masks
  • Limited entryways
  • Mandatory temperature checks
  • Capacity of just 750
  • No bingo or table games
  • Slots spaced at least six feet apart
  • No drinking or smoking inside the property

Casino executives noted that they will reconsider the protocols after a month or two. At that time, they may increase the capacity and/or restore table games on a limited basis.

That would be good news for the tribal community that operates the casino. The casino is the largest employer in the Akwesasne band of the St. Regis Mohawks, normally employing around 800 people.

Over the course of the five-month shutdown, the casino laid off 700 of those individuals. The return to business means some of them are back at work, with more rehires pending.

With Akwesasne’s reopening, all of the tribal casinos in New York are running at a limited capacity again. That still isn’t the case for the state’s commercial casinos, however.

Why commercial casinos in the Empire State remain closed

So far, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s actions on the pandemic have not allowed commercial casinos in his state to reopen, even with protective measures in place.

While race tracks are running at a limited capacity, the lack of casino revenue is putting those in jeopardy as well.

It’s a precarious situation for those around the state who, like the members of the St. Regis Mohawk tribe, formerly depended on casino jobs for their livelihood.

On Oct. 1, thousands will lose their jobs permanently if the casinos aren’t open again.

To hopefully avoid that scenario, casino operators have joined their employees in putting pressure on Cuomo to allow them to reopen. For the moment, it seems that pressure hasn’t been sufficient to change the governor’s mind.

That means that also for the moment, tribal casinos are the only option for New Yorkers. With the Akwesasne now open, that contingent is again full.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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