The Bay Mills Resort and Casino, which voluntarily closed on Nov. 18 due to rising coronavirus cases in Michigan, will remain closed until at least Dec. 18, the casino’s operator announced late last week.
Taking to Twitter, the tribe’s chairman, Bryan Newland, said the hotel and casino closure was approved by the Bay Mills Executive Council.
“Our casinos are the largest source of employment for our Tribe, and the largest source of revenue for tribal government,” Newland wrote on his Twitter page. “Closing tribal casinos is a HARD choice. We set aside a large part of CARES Act money in case this was necessary. That money runs out on 12/31. While COVID-19 has not surged on our Rez (yet), it has in [the] surrounding region. Staying closed is safest for our community, our employees, and our region.”
On Nov. 18, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed down many of the state’s non-essential businesses — including the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Greektown Casino-Hotel — until at least Dec. 8 in an effort to stem the tide of the pandemic.
“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” Whitmer said at a press conference announcing the restrictions. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action. As the weather gets colder and people spend more time indoors, this virus will spread. More people will get sick and there will be more fatalities.”
The shutdown order expires Tuesday; Whitmer has yet to announce whether she will extend the order.
This marks the second time during the pandemic Detroit’s casinos have been forced to close. The first time was March 16, and it wasn’t until Aug. 5 that they were allowed to reopen.
Tribal casinos under federal law
The tribal casinos, however, fall under federal oversight. Many closed the first time around, but they reopened much earlier than the Detroit casinos. This time around, the majority of the tribal casinos remained open, excepting for Bay Mills and the quintet of Kewadin casinos.
Newland and the executive council decided to extend the closure of its casino property for numerous reasons, as explained in his Twitter thread.
“After [the] New Year, an extended closure would be extremely painful,” he continued. “If we can’t pay employees, we will likely have to do furloughs. Opening may bring some revenues to tribal govt, but business will still be down. Risk of a surge in cases will go up significantly. Of course, we depend upon those revenues to help fight the pandemic. So, starving ourselves of resources is like a body shutting down extremities to preserve core functions: painful, dangerous, and unsustainable. Tribes are all in this position.”
Despite the revenue hit, Newland was adamant staying closed a little while longer was the right decision.
“‘Closed’ vs. ‘Open’ is not a simple binary choice. Lots of factors to consider,” Newland wrote. “But, it basically boils down to ‘Tolerable Risk’ vs ‘Needed Reward.’ Tribes, local govts, States, and small businesses are all doing this calculus. The equation shifts considerably based upon federal relief. The more types of relief, and the more valuable it is, provides more options for us to tailor our operations to address our problems. No relief makes each choice harder, and increases the costs of getting it wrong.
“For clarity, the ‘costs of getting it wrong’ means the amount of human people with families who are killed by COVID or other treatable medical conditions that can’t be addressed because hospitals are full.”