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SAN DIEGO – Eight Native American gaming tribes in San Diego County are gearing up to reopen their casinos beginning on May 18.

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, tribal leaders said they’re basing the re-openings on the state’s stage two criteria and using it to develop policies to protect public health, including using temperature checks, mask requirements and social distancing protocols.

Viejas Casino and Resort plans to open on May 18. At Sycuan Casino Resort, an official reopening date has not been set but representatives said it would be “soon.”

Other local tribal casinos — including Barona Valley Ranch, Jamul, Pala, Pauma, Valley View and Harrah’s — have not announced when specifically they will open after May 18.

In their letter to the governor, the tribal leaders emphasized the crucial nature of the casinos for the well-being of the tribal governments:

“Tribal government gaming is the only lifeline for essential government functions on each of our reservations including, but no limited to: police, fire, medical, education, child care, housing, water and wastewater, eldercare, environmental protection, recreation and more.”

Extensive cleaning is underway at Sycuan, including spraying a protective coating to fight against viruses and bacteria.

“We sprayed the whole casino from ceiling to floor, all surfaces, slot machines, table games, shuttle buses,” said Sycuan General Manager Rob Cinelli.

Cinelli said things will look different for returning patrons when that day comes.

“There are going to be some inconveniences,” Cinelli said. “We’ve got to check their temperature. They’ve got to wear a mask. They have to use hand sanitizers every time they touch something. It’s just kind of the new way of doing things.”