Jamul Casino’s Mary Cheeks discusses the key take-aways from re-opening

Mary Cheeks Jamul Casino

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Shortly after the re-opening of Jamul Casino in mid-May, Casino Review spoke to the property’s president and general manager, Mary Cheeks, about some of the key considerations for resuming operations.

Following a two-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamul Casino resumed operations in mid-May. Situated 20 miles from downtown San Diego, the casino is owned and operated by Jamul Indian Village of California, a federally recognised tribe of Kumeyaay Indians.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the property closed on 20 March 2020 to protect the health and safety of its guests, team members, and tribal members.

Jamul Casino
Jamul Casino

Jamul Casino’s re-opening plans were based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State of California, the County of San Diego, the Tribe’s COVID-19 Task Force, the National Indian Gaming Commission, and were reviewed by the Southern Indian Health Council.

Prior to resuming operations, Jamul Casino surveyed its entire database of guests, with 94 percent of respondents indicating they would be comfortable returning to the property.

Jamul Casino began its phased re-opening on 18 May for its Amber and above Sweetwater Rewards Club VIP guests, with its public reopening subsequently taking place on 21 May.

Casino Review spoke to the property’s president and general manager, Mary Cheeks, shortly after it resumed operations and discussed some of her key take-aways from the re-opening process.

Casino Review: How did re-opening go and based on your experience what are some of the standout points for other casinos preparing to recommence operations?

Mary Cheeks: The re-opening went very smoothly. We held a soft opening from 18-20 May, where Jamul Casino had three days with invited guests only to allow us to test all our protocols and refine them as needed prior to opening to the public on 21 May. This period also allowed our team members time to get adjusted to the facial coverings, gloves, distancing, and overall personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements. I would highly recommend that casinos allocate at least one day for a soft opening to help ensure smooth operations before opening to the public.

CR: In terms of social distancing requirements, what do you predict will be the new normal going forward?

MC: I think the situation we have today regarding health and safety requirements will be around for a while yet. It is hard to predict what any future changes might be, but we will stay in line with public heath recommendations.

CR: In terms of best practice, what have been some of your key takeaways during the re-opening process?

MC: Labour needs are a key consideration. It’s important to note that there is a lot of pent up demand during the initial opening phase. Given this, operators will need to bring back most of their teams to assist with cleaning, monitoring social distancing and facial covering requirements. Additionally, I would highly recommend utilising the thermal camera process for temperature checks versus the manual handheld no touch. It’s important to process guests through entry as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Some of the standout features of Jamul Casino’s reopening plans include:

• Thoroughly cleaned and disinfected surfaces, machines, chips, dining and bar areas, kitchens and food prep areas, new air filters and HVAC cleaning.

• Continuous cleaning and sanitising of dining venues and guest touch points throughout the day. A special “Clean Team” has been established to be laser-focused on all high-touch guest and team member areas that will be continuously cleaned.

• Temperature screening will be carried out using non-contact infrared thermometers before team members and guests can enter the casino. Anyone with a temperature of 100 degrees or higher or other symptoms – such as coughing, sneezing, or a runny nose – will not be allowed to enter the casino.

• Face coverings are required for all team members and guests.

• The majority of casino employees will wear gloves, and the casino will provide gloves to guests upon request. Dealers who cannot wear gloves due to chip handling will be required to constantly sanitise and wash hands. Dealers will frequently change cards as well.

• 150 hand-sanitising stations have been placed throughout the casino.

• Required physical distancing, including reduced seating, shutting off certain gaming machines, and controlled entry and exit has been introduced to facilitate distancing and occupancy.

• Social distance signage has been placed throughout the casino and dining venues.

• All cage cashiers and quick serve dining counters have Plexiglas dividers.

• The property will carry out a phased re-opening of its dining venues, enforcing physical distancing for restaurants.

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