Ernest Stevens Jnr, Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has asked member tribes to continue supporting each other through what he described as “unprecedented times” this week.

Following up on last week’s announcement regarding the cancellation of the association’s 2020 Tradeshow in San Diego, he reminded members that during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, “…health, safety, and well-being is a primacy and the steps that are being taken to encourage social distancing will proactively further help in reducing the transmission rate of a highly contagious illness like the novel coronavirus”.

He added: “I commend all tribes for their diligence in taking the appropriate actions to maintain the health and prosperity of not only their tribal citizens but all customers and visitors to their gaming properties.

“Our California Indian Nations announced they are working with Governor Gavin Newsom on voluntarily closing their tribal gaming properties until the end of March. California Tribes are full partners with Governor Gavin Newsome after he issued a State Executive Order further enhancing California’s ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tribes are assisting residents to follow public health directives and guidance, including canceling large non-essential gatherings among other criteria.”

Stevens’ update also focused on New Mexico where the Pueblo Governors and the Navajo Nation have decided to temporarily close casinos due to COVID-19 cases arising in the state. Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham convened a government-to-government call with New Mexico’s Tribal Nations to help arrive at a mutually agreed upon COVID-19 response. 

He added: “Precautionary closures of other tribal government casino properties are taking place across the country as well as Tribal Nation declarations of emergency. On Monday, the Oneida Nation of New York announced that they would be closing their casino properties.

“The Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana announced a temporary closure for their casino operations for two weeks and the Forest County Potawatomi’s Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and – as I send this communication – many more have closed their tribal gaming properties.”

Stevens also acknowledged efforts elsewhere across the industry to address the impacts of the outbreak. He said: “The commercial gaming industry is doing their part as well to help stem the spread of the virus. We are aware of the American Gaming Association‘s request to the Federal Government for financial assistance to their industry.

“I have talked to AGA CEO Bill Miller to help coordinate efforts, however, I noted that financial assistance to Indian Country is far different than in the commercial setting.” 

He concluded: “Events are moving extremely quickly. Let me be clear, the National Indian Gaming Association needs continuing input from its Tribal Membership, particularly our Tribal Leaders and CFOs, on what it will take to keep Tribal Governments open.”


Tribes are urged to visit the following websites to track the governmental response to the coronavirus and NCAI has started a website where Tribes can share where to locate resources to fight the virus: