As California continues to grapple with a worsening winter surge of COVID-19 cases, some businesses remain able to operate outside the purview of state shutdown orders aimed to protect public health during the pandemic. Tribal resorts and casinos in California operate under federal law on federally protected sovereign land known as rancherias – so they're not required to comply with orders issued by Gov. Newsom or county officials.
The Graton Resort and Casino, located on tribal land in Rohnert Park, came under criticism for announcing that it would host a 4,000-person New Year's Eve party. After a public-shaming, the Sonoma County casino canceled the event last week and "apologized for any inconvenience" in a statement online.
Sonoma County Public Health Officer Sundari Mase recently told ABC7 News the department was working with the casino to mitigate risk, "in terms of limiting indoor capacity to 20% of what's normal, in terms of enforcing facial coverings or masks and social distancing."
But the casino may not be adhering to that 20% capacity threshold, according to some employees who say their employer's practices make them fear for their safety.
“At a poker table, we're sitting seven players, plus a dealer. That's eight people sitting at a table that's 6 feet long,” said an employee of the Graton Resort and Casino who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job.