Michigan’s Island Resort & Casino to Reopen on May 6

  • Slots and some bingo in initial reopening phase
  • Tribal casinos are not regulated by state, do not have to abide by lockdown mandates
  • Further phases continue next week, plans for some areas still undetermined
  • Customers and employees encouraged to wear masks, but not required
Michigan map
The Island Resort & Casino, a tribal casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, will reopen on a limited basis on May 6. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: The Island Resort and Casino has rethought its plan to reopen after the Hannahville Indian Community Tribe received an email from state of Michigan officials. They informed that, while the tribe had the legal right to resume the casino operation, patrons and workers could incur penalties of up to $1,000 per violation or per day.

Tribal casinos not regulated by state

Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Michigan has announced that it will begin a phased reopening of its property on Wednesday, May 6. The decision comes despite Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing executive order 2020-69 on April 30, extending the mandated closure of casinos.

The State of Michigan does not have authority to oversee tribal casinos

Because Island Resort & Casino is owned by the Hannahville Indian Community, it does not have to abide by the executive order. The State of Michigan does not have authority to oversee tribal casinos; they are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The tribes, in turn, have compacts with the state.

The vast majority of tribal casinos around the United States have honored state shutdown orders, though some were later to close than “commercial” casinos. Island Resort & Casino has been closed since March 21.

Multi-phased reopening

The initial opening phase on March 6 will be limited. Only slot machines and some bingo will reopen on the gaming side. “Select” bars, retail, and to-go food service will, as well. Guest Services, VIP Services, the Island Club, and cashiers will all be available.

On Friday, May 8, the resorts golf courses will begin operation and on May 13, the hotel will open for business.

Other gaming and services such as table games, poker, clubs, and spa will reopen at some later date.

We think we can keep that clean and our customers themselves will keep themselves safe.”

“We feel we’re doing what everyone else does,” general manager Tony Mancilla told WJMN-TV. “Hotels are open, restaurants are open. We have those things. The only difference is the slot floor. We think we can keep that clean and our customers themselves will keep themselves safe.”

Mancilla believes it is safe for customers and employees to return to the casino because it is located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a much less-densely populated area than the Lower Peninsula, where Detroit, a major COVID-19 hotspot, is situated. In the casino’s county of Menominee, there have been just five confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

Safety practices implemented

Though casino management is confident that all will be well, it is taking steps to try to protect staff and patrons. Staff will be positioned at each entrance to take the temperature of all guests; those registering above 100 degrees will be turned away. Infrared thermometers will be used to avoid personal contact.

Protective masks will be provided at Guest Services, the hotel desk, and the Island Club. Though everyone is encouraged to wear one – personal masks from home can be used, as well – they are not required. Plexiglass barriers have also been installed wherever possible to reduce person-to-person contact.

High-touch surfaces such as slot machines, ATMs, elevators, and counters will be sanitized frequently. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be placed throughout the gaming floor and other high-traffic areas. Wet wipes can be acquired upon request.

Staff and guests are also “recommended” to maintain a social distancing gap of six feet. Floor guides will be in place to aid in this practice.