The news that Missouri casinos will be opening their doors come June 1 has Illinois gambling enthusiasts wondering when the same will happen here.
The answer? No one knows.
Despite casinos getting the green light from the Missouri Gaming Commission to originally open May 15, the decision, according to radio station KMOX-AM, was pushed back to better coincide with local government opening dates.
Casino Queen and Argosy Casino Alton, which are Illinois casinos near the St. Louis area, have no timetable for reopening.
The economic impact in Illinois is significant
A.D. Quig, the government and politics reporter at Crain’s Chicago Business, said during an interview with NPR news station WBEZ-FM that casinos remaining closed is “bad news for state budgets, city budgets, and future plans” in terms of economic impact.
“So, as of today, the casinos have lost over $100 million just in revenue,” Quig said. “That doesn’t include the money they have spent on virus-related expenses. That means the state has lost about $50 million in casino tax revenues, and local communities where casinos are located have lost $10 million in casino tax revenues.”
Quig went on to say those losses were “just casinos alone” and did not include video gaming or sports betting.
What is Missouri’s plan of action?
Missouri’s 13 casinos will be forced to make changes in order to create social distancing. Some expected changes will include fewer slot machines and table games for bettors to use.
Additionally, the staff at the casinos will be required to wear masks and intensive cleaning will take place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At this time, no decision has been made regarding if customers will also be required to wear face masks.
According to the Missouri Gaming Commission, the state has lost approximately $55 million in casino tax revenue. The state’s casinos, which include riverboat casinos, have been shut down since March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is Illinois close to opening casinos?
As of right now, there is no definitive timeline for when casinos in Illinois will be able to open their doors.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently revealed a five-phase plan called “Restore Illinois” that would allow the gathering of 50 or fewer people during the fourth phase.
“Phase Four, it’s called revitalization, where gatherings of 50 people or fewer are allowed, with the limit subject to change based on data and guidance,” said Quig.
“It should be interesting to see how casinos adapt to this. This has been something they’ve been thinking hard about, how to make this safer, including having plastic dividers between gaming terminals, lots of hand-washing.
“But again, a lot of these casinos are a much bigger capacity than 50 people, so I don’t expect we’d see them fully operating again until we are fully in Phase Five, which might not be until we have a vaccine.”
In the meantime, the opening of Missouri’s casinos could have a negative effect on Illinois. The Casino Queen, which is in East St. Louis, could potentially lose business to its Missouri counterparts. Specifically to Lumière Place in St. Louis and Lemay-based River City Casino, which are about five minutes and 20 minutes of driving distance away, respectively.
“Casino folks are obviously eager to make money, so they are also eager to figure out a way to make people feel safe, and to also keep their 5,000 employees safe,” Quig said during her NPR interview.
As of May 19, Illinois had a statewide total of 96,485 cases of COVID-19 and 4,234 deaths. Laboratories have reported the completion of 603,241 tests.