Connecticut’s two tribal casinos, responding to a spike in the coronavirus in nearby Norwich, say they will maintain their current capacity and decline the state’s invitation to expand business operations and public gatherings.
It’s an ironic shift for Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun, which opened June 1 in defiance of Gov. Ned Lamont’s preference to expand later in the summer when more progress was made in the fight against the coronavirus.
Now that Lamont is moving to phase 3 on Oct. 8, easing some restrictions, the casinos are backing away.
“In response to the increased COVID-19 infection rate across eastern Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casino today announced that it will continue to operate at 25% capacity, as it has since reopening in June,” the casino said.
Sticking to current capacity limits also is related to the casino’s “successful safety track record,” Foxwoods said.
Jeff Hamilton, president and general manager of Mohegan Sun, cited the spike in COVID-19 in eastern Connecticut and guidance from the Mohegan Tribal Health Department as it announced it will not move to a “new phase of reopening.”
“This includes continuing to operate at gaming and dining capacity limits we currently have in place,” he said.
Mohegan Sun also will temporarily keep performing spaces such as the Wolf Den and Mohegan Sun Arena closed.
State public health officials last week issued a COVID-19 alert for Norwich as coronavirus cases surged in the city and across the rest of the eastern half of Connecticut. As of Oct. 1, Norwich had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita in Connecticut at 24 cases per 100,000 people since late September.
That’s about five times higher than the statewide rate. A few employees of the casinos tested positive this summer for the virus.
Lamont announced Sept. 24 his policy that increases to 75% from 50% indoor capacity, subject to COVID-19 safety requirements, for restaurants, personal services, hair salons, barber shops and libraries. It increases to 50% from 25% outdoor event venues such as amphitheaters, and race tracks with requirements for face masks and social distancing.
In addition, indoor performing arts venues may open at 50% capacity with masks and social distancing requirements. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed.
Lamont and the casinos differed in early summer about when it was appropriate to open. The governor urged a slow approach for reopening Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino later in the summer. The tribal leaders said that with stringent safety precautions their businesses could operate safely and open a week after Memorial Day.
As sovereign nations, the tribes are beyond state government jurisdiction.
The Mohegan Sun generated $93.1 million in slot revenue in July and August, the first two months of the state’s budget year, down about 3.5% from the same two months last year. Revenue at Foxwoods in July and August was $60.1 million, down 22% from 2019.
Stephen Singer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.