Andrew “Dru” Alejandre, Tribal Chairman, Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians

Andrew “Dru” Alejandre, Tribal Chairman
Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians
Rolling Hills Casino Resort in Corning, CA

During this public health crisis, we worked tirelessly to communicate with both the tribal members and Rolling Hills Casino and Resort employees. Luckily, our planning processes considered such a disruption to our organizations, so we had virtual communications platforms already deployed allowing for operational continuity. These tools were used for ongoing communication with members, community health professionals, government and enterprise team members allowing for quick adaptation to a changing health landscape. They were especially important when we had to make the difficult decision to close the Rolling Hills Casino and Resort in mid-March to help protect the health and wellness of our employees and guests. Since many of our valued employees had to be furloughed during this time, the tribe helped ease some of the stress from the uncertainty by paying health benefits.

Our strategy has been to align our response plan with the tribe’s values to prepare for change, communicate often and protect our community members. As the crisis started to unfold, the Rolling Hills Casino and Resort management team started preparing for an anticipated closure. Part of the preparation was to put in place an employee and tribal member communication plan. We held frequent townhall sessions to share information as it was received. This plan was utilized frequently to give updates, instruction and assurance to employees that were furloughed at the time. This strategy is still in place as the crisis continues and will continue to be part of our organizational culture moving forward.

We reopened the Rolling Hills Casino and Resort on May 21st and the experience has been very positive for the Paskenta Tribe, our employees and the public. We made the decision to reopen the casino after consulting with our trusted public health experts from the Rolling Hills Clinics and following the guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our casino management took proper care and consideration to implement sanitation and safety procedures prior to the re-opening of the property to ensure that our employees and guests returned to a safe environment. We believe “minimum safety measures” are never acceptable. We went beyond the typical spacing of machines and temperature checks to implement first-in-class technology by partnering with Acres Gaming to identify areas that needed cleaning within moments of a guest play completion. Combining this technology along with ionizers for our hotel rooms, ultraviolet lights for high-touch areas and countless other medical grade procedures, we have accomplished the safest public entertainment space possible.

I would advise all tribes to create a plan but remain prepared to adapt the plans at a moment’s notice. COVID-19 has taught us that things can change from week to week, and as a tribe, we must be agile. If a tribe’s management team keeps this in mind, they will be able to follow their plan and react appropriately and efficiently. Most importantly, I believe that when we aren’t afraid to ask each other for help, whether it’s within our organizations or with other tribes, we all move forward together.