Chumash Casino welcomes guests back with excitement
The No. 1 source of revenue for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians reopened Wednesday at noon after three long months of closure.
The Chumash Casino Resort opened its doors with the intention to tread lightly, with plenty of precautions and a gradual move toward opening all the amenities.
“The biggest effort here is just to make sure everybody understands the new normal,” said Kenneth Kahn, the local Chumash tribal chairman since 2016. “We are opening very slowly — not all of the amenities are offered. They’re based on the health of our region as some of the like entities open up.”
The following was implemented to ensure safety among all guests and employees: a non-contact thermometer in the lobby, more than 1,000 plastic shields separating slot machines, floor dots to enforce social distancing, a four-person limit on elevators, additional hand sanitizing units, a mask requirement for all common areas and mandatory Safe + Well training sessions for team members prior to reopening.
Although the new normal will include wellness stickers for all healthy guests, plexiglass barriers and numerous hand-washing reminders, Chairman Kahn said he’s excited to welcome guests back and help lift spirits.
“We’ve built quite a family throughout the years,” he said. “We opened our doors in 1994 and never imagined we’d be closing them again.”
With the casino as the primary source of revenue, the closure amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge financial challenge for the region. Not only did the resort itself provide for the community, but the tourism financially lifted mom and pop businesses right up along with it.
“We’re excited to be able to provide for our people again,” Chairman Kahn said. “We’re proud of the positive economic impact that we have on the overall community.”
Luckily, Chumash Casino underwent a $165 million expansion only four years ago. Ironically, this provides a lot of opportunities and overall space for social distancing. Chairman Kahn said the casino is “taking use of every square foot of this facility.”
For example, the Samala Showroom, one of the upgrades in the project, is typically used for concerts and bingo. Now it has been turned into a large banquet hall so that guests can space themselves out as they eat their grab-and-go food.
“We have a lot to be grateful for,” said Chairman Kahn, adding that the employees who both stayed and are coming back have been working around the clock. “Today is certainly an exciting day. After being closed for almost one full quarter, there’s been a lot of uncertainty, but we are able to welcome everybody back with a big smile.”