SAN DIEGO — Sycuan Casino reopened to the public Wednesday, becoming the second of five tribal casinos that will open its doors this week.
Viejas Casino and Resort reopened on Monday, Jamul Casino will reopen on Thursday and Valley View Casino & Hotel and Harrah's Resort Southern California will reopen Friday.
Bingo and poker will remain closed as part of Sycuan's phased reopening. Restaurants will operate for limited hours and gaming areas will require appropriate spacing between players and staff.
Tables games will be limited to a maximum of three players per table and every other slot machine will be turned off to further encourage space between players.
"We normally have 2,500 slot machines," said Sycuan General Manager Rob Cinelli. "We reduced that to half, we have every other slot machine turned off."
Patrons and staff will also be required to undergo temperature checks, wear masks at all times, and practice physical distancing.
"Anybody that takes their mask off for whatever reason will be instructed to put it back on," said Cinelli.
Smoking is still allowed at the casino.
"It's a tough one, in our business...smoking, I don't wanna say every gambler smokes but a lot of them do," said Cinelli.
Monday Viejas Casino opened to big crowds and long lines.
Cinelli says that's what they tried to avoid. They allowed some customers in yesterday for a soft opening.
"The whole time in my career, you want crowds at the door," he said. "This is the one time you don't want crowds at the door."
"To say we could completely protect everybody 100%, we can't. But no other business can either," he added.
All five casinos opening this week in the county are on tribal land, meaning they are not subject to the same state regulations that have limited most business operations in California.
San Diego County health officials reported 114 new COVID-19 cases and 8 additional deaths on Wednesday, raising the totals to 6,140 cases and 230 deaths.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor Tuesday to ask Gov. Gavin Newsom to accelerate the reopening of certain facilities and activities shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a vote of 4-1, with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher opposed, the board also approved sending a formal letter to Newsom in support of a pilot program to further open such facilities as youth and sports clubs, salons, fitness clubs and outdoor religious services.
Fletcher said he believes the county is ready to responsibly reopen businesses in "Stage 2" consistent with the guidelines Newsom outlined Monday.
However, "given we have not even opened 'Stage 2' businesses, I do not believe it is time to call on the state to allow the immediate opening of `Stage 3' entities including higher-risk activities like gatherings and businesses with high exposure, intensity and duration of risk," Fletcher said Tuesday.
Newsom has said he believes the county will be ready to move into "Stage 3" at the beginning of June, Fletcher added.
Newsom said Monday county governments should have more discretion in terms of reopening certain types of facilities.
Supervisor Jim Desmond called the pilot plan "a step in the right direction."
Desmond said if the county doesn't allow for more facilities to reopen, the health crisis will cause unemployment to keep increasing.
Helen Robbins-Meyer, the county's chief executive officer, said Tuesday that until Newsom's team has reviewed data associated with Stage 2 openings and is assured there have been no significant spikes in coronavirus cases "then, and only then, will he declare the state has entered into Stage 3."
"We remain committed to abiding by the state's order," she said, adding that she believes San Diego County is uniquely qualified to meet some Stage 3 criteria because of its practices.
"I cannot say the governor will approve this pilot," Robbins-Meyer said, but if he does even approve part of it, the county can move forward.
The board voted after hearing an update on the county's efforts to contain further spread of the coronavirus. Health officials said the county is ready to move further into Stage 2 of the California Resiliency Roadmap.
Robbins-Meyer said the county meets Stage 2 acceleration criteria. According to the county, that criteria includes:
-- Less than 5% of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations over a seven-day period or no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days;
-- Fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days or less than 8% testing positive in the past seven days;
-- A capacity to be able to test 1.5 per every 1,000 residents and at least 15 staff per 100,000 county population trained and available for contact tracing, and;
-- Hospital capacity for a possible surge of 35% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 cases in addition to providing usual care for other patients.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday the county's decision was welcome news.
"We have a real opportunity to demonstrate that leadership and open businesses such as hair salons," Faulconer said. "Small businesses are ready to get back on their feet."
The board's actions also won praise from state Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee.
"The last eight weeks have taken a devastating toll on small businesses, their workers and families throughout the region," Jones said.
"After some prodding by a lot of us, including Supervisors Desmond and (Kristin) Gaspar, the full board is finally starting to 'get it.'"