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Tribal casinos in New Mexico reopen despite state warning

SANTA FE, N.M. — Multiple tribal casinos in New Mexico have reopened despite recommendations from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to remain closed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Isleta Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, Ohkay Hotel Casino in Ohkay Owingeh and Taos Mountain Casino in Taos all have reopened with coronavirus-related precautions, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

“All casinos are strongly, unequivocally encouraged to remain closed at this time, just like other entertainment facilities, due to the risk of COVID-19 spread,” governor’s office spokeswoman, Nora Meyers Sackett, said Tuesday. “Any entity opening a casino right now is exposing patrons and the community in which it is situated to enormous risk of infection and spread.”

Tribal casinos are controlled by sovereign nations, so the state cannot prohibit them from reopening.

The governor’s office did not respond when asked if it has spoken with tribal governments about their plans to reopen casinos, or whether it had asked them not to reopen.

Casino officials at Isleta, Ohkay Owingeh and Taos declined to speak about their reopenings.

Tesuque Casino, Pojoaque Pueblo’s Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino outside Santa Fe and other tribal casinos around the state remained closed.

Lujan Grisham through her public health orders has allowed other businesses including breweries, restaurants, salons and gyms to reopen in limited capacities, but the number of coronavirus cases continue to increase. Positive tests surpassed the 10,000 mark Wednesday, and state health officials reported five additional deaths, bringing the total to 452.

The latest cases include another 38 inmates at state and federal lockups.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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