California Casinos Defend Hosting New Year's Eve Parties Amid State's COVID Crisis

Two casinos in California have defended their plans to hold New Year's Eve parties at a time when most of the state is under strict coronavirus restrictions.

The venues are both tribal casinos operating under federal law on federally protected land. That means Gov. Gavin Newsom's ban on indoor entertainment does not apply to the businesses.

Thunder Valley Casino says it expects about 6,000 guests to attend its "Farewell 2020" fete, which it has billed as "invite-only." According to its website, the event will last from 1 p.m. on Thursday until 6 a.m. on New Year's Day.

Bosses at the Lincoln County venue have said that closing the venue to the public will reduce normal crowds on the last night of the year by more than 80 percent.

That "will allow more than ample opportunity for social distancing amongst guests" at the 835,0002 ft site, a spokesperson told The Sacramento Bee on Monday.

"In addition, mask-wearing will be strictly enforced, acrylic barriers will be in place between guests and reduced seating capacities will be implemented property-wide," they added.

Meanwhile, Cache Creek Casino Resort in Yolo County has also announced plans on its website to close to the public overnight Thursday in order to host its own private event.

The number of guests expected to attend the party is not known, although the venue told The Bee that the total would represent "less than 1% of our pre-COVID occupancy."

Newsweek has contacted both of the venues for comment on the plans.

At least three other casinos are reportedly set to remain open overnight. They include Harrah's in Ione, Red Hawk Casino near Placerville and Hard Rock Hotel and Casino-Sacramento at Fire Mountain.

It comes after Graton Resort and Casino in Sonoma County scrapped its plans to host 4,000 guests at another private event this New Year's Eve. The venue announced the cancelation in a Facebook post on Christmas Day.

All casinos named in this article have been contacted for comment by Newsweek.

According to data compiled by John Hopkins University, California reported a record high 298,655 COVID cases in the week of December 13 to 19, and 1,776 COVID-linked deaths during the last seven days—another record.

It brings the total number of confirmed cases to 2,261,035 and takes the death toll to 25,334 since the pandemic began, according to JHU.

A case of a new COVID variant that health experts believe is highly contagious was confirmed in Southern California on Wednesday, Gov. Newsom has announced.

Blackjack at the Thunder Valley Casino
This file photo shows a game of blackjack underway at the Thunder Valley Casino, which is located just north of Sacramento. Kim Kulish/Getty