I don’t gamble much, but judging by the number of folks that were at Seven Feathers Casino Resort when I went there this past week, I’d put $100 on the place bouncing back just fine after it was closed for more than two months due to COVID-19.
Like just about everything amid this COVID-19 pandemic, the casino is largely the same, with some noteworthy changes. The popular Canyonville facility closed the middle of March and two weeks later furloughed more than 500 workers. It reopened the morning of May 22.
I visited Seven Feathers on Wednesday afternoon, and as I pulled into the main parking lot I counted about 200 cars, and another couple dozen in the hotel lot.
To begin with, everyone entering the casino gets their temperature taken with a device the attendant presses against your temple. If you’re deemed OK to enter they’ll ask you to put on your mask, and if you don’t have one they’ll hand you one to wear.
The day I was there everyone had on a mask — even the giant Sasquatch near the gift shop —except for some of the card dealers, who were wearing full, clear plastic face guards. There was a lot of cleaning going on too — I saw several workers with spray bottles cleaning seats that had just been vacated, and other areas. There are also hand wipe dispensers stationed throughout the casino.
Before the March closure the nearly 70,000 square-foot gaming area featured about 900 gaming machines, two dozen gaming tables, a bingo hall and more. Seven Feathers also includes a 25,000 square-foot convention center, a half-dozen restaurant/lounges and a 300-room hotel.
I didn’t count the gaming tables but there certainly is no shortage of them. And they still feature names only a casino could get away with — Texas Tea, Lamp of Destiny, Shadow Diamond, Egyptian Prince, Rawhide, Mustang Fever, Chinese Zodiac, Money Storm, Lobstermania, Imperial Wealth, Magic Flower, Dragon Link, White Orchid, Big 5 Safari, Buffalo Gold, The Walking Dead.
You get the picture.
While the gaming tables remain, a number of seats were removed to provide more spacing for players. The casino’s half-dozen or so restaurants cut back their hours to allow more time for cleaning. I was there in the early afternoon and I only saw a couple that were open.
The casino resort is owned by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and they tend to keep their business decisions and ventures close to the vest. They did that this time too.
A primary revenue sourceSusan Ferris, a spokesperson for the tribe, said that on the afternoon of May 20, a Wednesday, casino operators brought in about 300 VIP frequent customers for a test run of the new facility. The guests checked into the hotel and stayed overnight, and had the run of the casino. Sufficient staff was also brought in to serve them.
The trial run went without a hiccup and on May 21, tribal leaders met via Zoom and voted to reopen the casino. The next morning, Friday the 22, at 7 a.m., the casino was alive again.
There was no grand public announcement or ad campaign.
About 100 people were in line that morning, waiting for the doors to open, Ferris said.
The casino has brought back several hundred workers and hopes to bring back more over time as operations continue to open in phases, she said.
Due to its unique sovereign status the Cow Creek tribe did not have to follow the restrictions mandated by the state, something Oregon Gov. Kate Brown reiterated. Despite that, all nine of Oregon’s tribal casinos closed temporarily due to the outbreak.
Four of them, including Seven Feathers, opened the week of May 18. The other three that opened were the Mill Casino Hotel in North Bend, Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Lincoln City and Three Rivers Casino in Florence and Coos Bay.
The Cow Creek tribe has been diversifying its portfolio over the years, adding significant agricultural properties, including two working ranches totaling more than 5,000 acres and another 17,000-plus forested acres it received through the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act in 2018.
However, the casino — which averaged about 1,300 visitors a day before the shutdown, Ferris said — is still a primary generator of revenue for the tribe. And that in turn helps fund various tribal endeavors, including the Cow Creek Umpqua Indian Foundation, the charitable arm of the tribe.
Established in 1997, the foundation has handed out nearly $19 million in grants to community nonprofits organizations in Douglas, Coos, Deschutes, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lane counties.
That includes more than $550,000 given to 83 nonprofit organizations last June, and nearly $500,000 handed out to 70 nonprofits in January.