Once New York state gives the go-ahead, Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter has detailed how the Oneida Indian Nation will reopen its casinos.
In mid-March, the Nation closed the doors on its three casinos – Turning Stone Resort Casino, Point Place Casino, and Yellow Brick Road Casino – in the wake of a joint order from the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
This was a choice the Nation made voluntarily despite being excluded from the governor’s order.
Employee Safety Top Priority for Oneida
The Oneida Nation has over 4,759 employees which makes them the largest employer in the county.
When pressed, Halbritter said “(Safety) is really the only issue for us. We want to protect the people that work for us and the people who come visit us. That is our primary goal.”
Joel Barkin, another tribe spokesman, had this to say:
“When the Oneida Indian Nation announced it would be temporarily closing its hospitality venues, we announced that we would be providing all full-time employees with an additional 80 hours of paid time off to use for any COVID-related issue, on top of their regular paid vacation days.”
State and county officials unsure about reopening
Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. appeared skeptical of the tribe’s plans saying, “And, really, how they can establish themselves or set up with the proper social distancing because obviously a big piece in Turning Stone, the main attraction is the gaming floor, which again, has various numbers in terms of machines, but also table games and the contact between machines, the chips, the different cards, etc.”
Picante also went on to wonder if the Nation would consider opening only the restaurants at the casino properties before gaming began again. The Casino restaurants have not been offering a takeout option during the pandemic so far.
Cuomo Favors Upstate Casinos
Last week a plan for reopening was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approval.
Cuomo has previously been very kind to the upstate casino industry by standing in the way of mobile sports betting options for New Yorkers. This forces them to place their bets at the brick-and-mortar betting windows located upstate and operated in Oneida County.
It has been estimated that legislation supporting mobile sports betting could earn the state of New York upwards of $200 million in additional tax revenue, but so far Cuomo has remained unmoved.
Instead, last year New Yorkers wagered $837 million on sports while New Jersey residents put over $4.6 billion into play.
It would not be far-fetched to imagine Cuomo approving a plan for the Oneida Nation to reopen despite apprehension from local officials.
Here is an abridged look at the New York Counties most impacted by Covid-19 with data from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
|County||Total cases||Total deaths|
Oneida County comes in at 20th on the list of most impacted counties in New York state which does present a strong argument for reopening.
Halbritter created a video to assist in detailing his plans and in it, stated that he is going to use the work of scientists, experts, and local officials to help decide how and when to reopen.
“(We’re going to) try to open business in a way that does not endanger the public’s well-being.”