Victor Rocha: 'The leadership America needs ... Indian Country has'
Indian Country Today
Victor Rocha, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, is the owner and editor of Pechanga.net and is the conference chair for the National Indian Gaming Association. He's monitored the Indian Gaming industry since 1988. Rocha tells Indian Country Today about the devastating effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on Indian Gaming and tribal nations.
”I would compare it to the end of the world. It's like everything that you know comes to an end and especially for tribal gaming.”
“It's hard to run a government without revenues.”
“You just see a $34 billion industry grind to a complete halt. It was just absolutely terrifying.”
“I think everyone felt the same thing. It was unprecedented. We spent 20 years wrapping this thing up into a fine machine and then to having a shutdown… so very terrifying, very terrifying.”
“I know from my tribe personally, we struggled with it until we saw a dealer at one of the commercial casinos in Los Angeles come down with the virus. So we made the announcement, I think like the same day that we're shutting down.”
“For us, it wasn't a hard decision because it was an important decision to keep our customers and our employees safe.”
“It was still terrifying, nevertheless, when you stop and think about how many people that gaming supports … your tribe and your elders.”
“To have the rug pulled out completely from under us is just unprecedented.”
“It's the decisions on the other hand, now it's like how do you open up, what's the best time to open up? We closed and now everyone is just kinda on the fence looking at everyone else.”
“I checked this morning and according to American Gaming Association's COVID-19 database, there are 989 commercial and tribal casinos in the United States. Of those, 181 are you currently open as of this morning.”
“If you include tribal gaming and commercial games, you're talking over $70 billion just shut down.”
“Everyone in commercial casinos are trying to figure out what's the best time to open for them, but tribes are leading this charge. Tribes because they are dependent sovereign, they can make these decisions on their own and that's what they're doing.”
“Tribes have done a phenomenal job of providing safe environments before and I think again, that's going to be very beneficial for them as they open up.”
“This is the new normal. I don't think any of us can really predict at this point, how long is it going.”
“I think that's the other point where the tribes are doing a phenomenal job is that they're showing what true leadership looks like.”
“The type of leadership that America needs, Indian Country has.”
“After the economic collapse in 2008, I felt in the long run it was good for the tribes cause it forced the tribes to become business owners and not lottery winners.”
“We opened up these casinos and built them and the people came. But then when they didn't, we were forced to learn how to run our properties properly.”
That's the thing that keeps me up at night and it breaks my heart because a lot of tribes work for decades to get to this point. There's several tribes out there that were just getting ready to open up new properties and investments and then to shut down for two months.”
“So just like in, in 2008, there were tribes that never came back.”
“It's in our DNA to be fighters.”
“Once sports betting goes mobile, then that means that, that’s off the reservation. And then that slows down the tribes and gets into the market.”
“We've never haven't had anything like this in our lifetime, where mass behavioral modification is on this grand scale.”
“So the tribes are going to be taking the standards of the CDC and other tribes are putting out there and they will be building and creating these environments where people can go and still feel safe. That's the most important thing.”
Also in the newscast, Jourdan Bennett-Begaye gives the latest numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in Indian Country.
The anchor of the newscast is Patty Talahongva.