Illinois Gambling Companies To Uphold COVID-19 Protocols, Or Risk Licenses

Posted on July 7, 2020

Although details on enforcement are fuzzy, the message is clear. Illinois casinos have to maintain the state’s standards for COVID-19 control.

A statement from the Illinois Gaming Board threatened discipline for violations of the pandemic protocols for licensed gambling operators in the Prairie State. That could include forfeiture of licenses necessary to keep the doors open.

The IGB’s message to Illinois casinos and VLT rooms

Gov. JB Pritzker allowed gaming facilities to reopen last Wednesday but imposed restrictions on them. Those include reductions in capacity, distancing requirements, and face mask mandates.

On Monday, the IGB followed up on Pritzker’s order. IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter didn’t mince words in his message to casinos, off-track betting sites, and VLTs.

Fruchter stated that the IGB would discipline licensees found in violation of the protocols, including and up to a loss of licensure. Fruchter was clear that he hoped the natural benefit of slowing the spread of the virus would supply the motivation to comply, however.

“More importantly, disregard of such preventative measures and requirements could contribute to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Illinois and another potential suspension of gaming operations,” he said. “That is a result nobody wants. We urge you not to let it happen.”

Illinois casinos have reopened, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Although newly reported cases have declined for three consecutive days in the state, they were on the rise for five of the previous seven days, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In his statement, Fruchter also alluded to the reality of the situation. The onus for maximum effectiveness of the precautions is still on the licensees and their customers.

Safety depends on each casino and all of its guests

Regardless of its intentions, the IGB doesn’t have the resources to police all of its licensees around the clock. Fruchter’s statement made no mention of enhanced inspections or oversight.

For those reasons, the IGB still is largely depending on license holders to police themselves. In reality, it’s counting on casino guests and personnel to take precautions for themselves and others, as buildings and slot machines can’t wash their hands or wear face masks.

As Fruchter alluded to, the proof of whether Illinoisans are abiding by the safety measures will be self-evident. Irresponsible behavior by gamblers and operators will create spikes in hospitalizations and positive tests, both of which the state’s health department records.

If those spikes are more pronounced in areas where gambling companies operate, that correlation will be hard to ignore. It could lead to more wholesale closures of casinos.

Regulators and leaders in other states have already taken further measures. For example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom just ordered non-tribal gaming rooms in his state to close their doors again. The Mississippi Gaming Commission also just made wearing face masks mandatory at all casinos.

It’s in the best interest of Illinois casinos and all who visit them to err on the side of caution. Ignoring safety protocols turns gambling with money into gambling with lives.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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