Illinois is on track to enter Phase 4 of its reopening plan on Friday, June 26, which could be good news for the state’s 10 casinos.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) says casinos may be able to open once the fourth phase begins, though that’s not official yet.
Illinois casino operators must submit resumption plans and comply with the board’s guidelines. The IGB will need to approve the plans before casinos can reopen.
“The timing of resumption of video gaming and casino gaming is entirely dependent on the public health conditions at the time,” said IGB spokesman Gene O’Shea.
“Additionally, any resumption of video gaming or casino gaming will resume within the framework of the Restore Illinois plan and, under that plan, the earliest gaming could resume is (Phase 4).”
It looks like there’s a reason for optimism on that front.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker recently signed an executive order allowing casinos to offer mobile sports betting, scrapping the in-person registration requirement. That signals that Pritzker is eager to get casinos up and running in an effort to generate revenue for the state.
While COVID-19 case numbers are spiking in southern and western regions of the US, Illinois is trending in the right direction.
Granted, Illinois.gov doesn’t single out casinos in its “Phase 4: Revitalization” reopening guidelines.
However, the guidelines allows for bars, movie theaters, indoor restaurants and fitness centers to reopen at a limited capacity. With face masks and social distancing measures in place, it would appear that casinos fall into a similar risk category.
Illinois casino reopening guidelines
While specific plans may vary from casino to casino, there are certain guidelines all operators must follow.
Here are some of the highlights from the Illinois Gaming Board:
- Practice social distancing (6 feet apart).
- Limited to 50% capacity.
- Employees and patrons must wear masks at all times.
- Temperature checks are required upon entry.
- Poker rooms are closed.
- Table games are closed.
- Buffet services are closed.
- Valet parking services are not allowed.
“Our public health officials are talking to casino owners and other experts to try to figure out how you could do it,” Pritzker told reporters in early June. “We’ve heard a lot about this out of Las Vegas, of course. But look, the goal here is to get everybody back to work, but to do it safely.”
What’s going on in surrounding states?
Indiana and Wisconsin casinos are open at varying degrees as of now.
Indiana casinos, such as Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and Ameristar in East Chicago, require social distancing. Only employees must wear masks; but, the casinos recommend that patrons wear masks.
Hand sanitizer is available at the casinos, and table games are allowed in a limited fashion. Blackjack can have three players, for instance, while roulette can have four.
Wisconsin casinos, on the other hand, are more strict.
The Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, for instance, is going to great lengths to prevent an outbreak and, as a tribal casino, it doesn’t require government approval.
Slot machines are the only bets available there. There are Plexiglas panels in place between bettors and everyone must wear face masks.
“Milwaukee County was a coronavirus hotspot and still is,” CEO and general manager Rodney Ferguson told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The last thing we wanted to do here was reopen with lax rules in a hotspot zone, have an outbreak and then be forced to close our doors again. We can’t really afford to take that risk, so we’re more on the conservative side.”
Illinois’ guidelines are somewhere in the middle. For instance, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines plans to install Plexiglas dividers, but those aren’t mandatory.
Phase 4 should begin in a few days. PlayIllinois will monitor the casinos reopening, and if and when they happen.