EMMETT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — West Michigan tribal casinos, which do not have to wait for approval from the state to reopen, are getting ready to welcome guests.

FireKeepers Casino Hotel near Battle Creek says it will officially reopen to the public at 11 a.m. Monday. Invitation-only VIP groups will be at the casino this weekend as a trial run for employees using new health and safety procedures.

CEO Kathy George said the casino is coming back to life after a difficult time for furloughed employees and for the tribe, which receives financial support from casino revenue.

“We are critical to the financial structure of the tribe and that’s how we are essential workers for them,” George said.

The casino says it has the legal authority to reopen without state approval, though leaders say they try to work with the state as much as possible.

“We are a sovereign nation,” George said. “We do fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government, not the state government, when it comes to gaming.”

The casinos in Detroit, which are under state jurisdiction, remain closed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

FireKeepers Vice President of Marketing Jim Wise said games will be limited at first and procedures for everything from food preparation to gaming are changing. Employees have been going through training this week to be ready for those new protocols.

“If you’re in table games, you’re learning that there will only be a couple people per table and how you need to control that and the distance between yourself and those guests,” Wise said.
Social distancing will also be observed at slot machines with enhanced cleaning.

“You have to wear a facial covering,” Wise said. “There is no smoking in the building. You can go outside and have a cigarette but no smoking in the building at all.”

Buffets and bingo will not be offered and the poker room will remain closed. Only some of the restaurants will open in this initial phase. Temperature checks will be required to enter.

Gun Lake Casino south of Wayland will start a phased reopening June 8, it announced Wednesday.  

Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan said it hopes to announce an opening date soon, providing News 8 with this statement Wednesday:

“The Pokagon Gaming Authority would like to thank everyone for their patience and continued support during the closure of our Four Winds Casinos. We are working on our plans for reopening with the Pokagon Gaming Commission and great care is being taken to ensure that we resume our operations in a manner that will not only protect the health and safety of our guests and employees, but also provide an enjoyable entertainment experience. We look forward to announcing these details, along with an opening date, very soon.”