Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced beginning Feb. 28, face coverings are no longer required to be worn in most indoor places.
The announcement should have IL casinos across the state jumping for joy as the lack of masks in their businesses should only draw in more people. The changes are effective Monday.
The only public places still requiring masks will be schools with grades preschool to 12, public transit, and other high-risk areas like healthcare facilities.
Here’s a look back at the struggles casinos faced trying to run at full speed while facing the limitations brought on by the pandemic.
First shutdown hits Illinois
In Nov. 2020, Pritzker announced the shutdown of casinos and video gaming terminals (VGTs). Movie theaters and indoor recreation centers were also forced to close their doors during this time. Capacity limits were placed on retail shopping centers.
This came off the heels of casinos just reopening in July 2020 after having been closed since COVID cases initially began popping up in the United States in March 2020. While open, casinos operated at either 25% or 50% capacity depending on the region of Illinois they’re located in.
But after the warm months came and went in 2020, cases began spiking again in November, hence Pritzker forcing casinos to shut the lights and lock the doors again.
Casinos begin reopening
In Jan. 2021, Pritzker announced certain regions, depending on their COVID-19 positivity rates, could move from ‘Tier 3’ to ‘Tier 2’. If a region is placed in a higher tier, it meant they had less positive COVID-19 cases and were allowed to open public places with fewer restrictions than lower tiers.
This re-ranking of tiers heavily affected casinos allowing for three to reopen: Par-A-Dice Casino in Joliet, Harrah’s Metropolis in Southern Illinois, and Jumer’s Casino and Hotel in Northwestern Illinois. Jumer’s, located in Rock Island, has since been renamed Bally’s Quad Cities Casino and Hotel.
In the eight days following these casinos welcoming patrons back in, seven more casinos also opened their doors.
Another step toward normalcy
In May 2021, the Prairie State entered the second-to-last phase of reopening businesses.
Capacity limits bumped to 60% and with vaccines becoming publicly accessible, individuals who received their COVID-19 vaccinations weren’t counted toward capacity numbers.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky also said fully vaccinated individuals could participate in indoor or outdoor activities without a mask, regardless of the number of people at the specific event. But it would still be up to each individual business if they’d like to enforce mask mandates.
By late May, all 10 Illinois casinos decided to follow Walensky’s recommendation and lifted mask policies for fully vaccinated individuals.
Casinos firing on all cylinders
In June 2021, Illinois entered phase 5 which allowed businesses, venues, events, etc. to operate without following capacity limits. Casinos were also allowed to be open 24/7.
Some casinos even offered free drinks if proof of vaccination was shown.
Taking a step back
In Aug. 2021, the Land of Lincoln began reinforcing indoor mask mandates. No matter an individual’s vaccination status a face covering would be required.
Vaccine mandate sets in
In Dec. 2021, Cook County required proof of vaccination to be presented prior to entering any indoor entertainment and recreation venues serving food and drink. Indoor fitness centers were also forced to follow this ruling.
This only impacted Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
How this ruling will impact casinos, sportsbooks
With online sportsbooks in Illinois hitting high marks in revenue and handle in recent months, allowing bettors to enter without masks should only draw in more patrons to retail facilities.