Mayor Lori Lightfoot has set a goal of fully reopening Chicago by July 4. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is hopeful that the entire state can follow suit.
During a press conference Tuesday, Lightfoot said she wants Chicago to be “one of the first cities to fully and safely reopen in the nation.”
Currently, Illinois is in Phase 4 of its COVID-19 reopening plan, which restricts operational capacities of restaurants, retail businesses and personal care facilities. Under this phase, Illinois casinos are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
Illinois casinos were closed entirely for two separate stretches during the pandemic: once in the spring of 2020 and again that winter. But, for the most part, all 10 facilities have been open at 25%-50% capacity.
If Illinois fully reopens by July 4, it would mark the first time the casinos can operate at full capacity since early March 2020.
Illinois could enter a “bridge phase” next week, which is one step shy of full reopening, according to Pritzker.
That would bump most capacity guidelines from 50% to 60%. Casinos are not explicitly mentioned in the state’s plan, though we should learn more about how the bridge phase affects casino capacity once we get there.
“We always are on guard. We’re watching the numbers like a hawk,” Pritzker said. “But I’m optimistic. I think things are going in the right direction.”
If Illinois enters Phase 5 by July, these 10 casinos can reopen at full capacity:
- Argosy Casino Alton
- DraftKings at Casino Queen
- Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
- Harrah’s Joliet
- Harrah’s Metropolis
- Hollywood Casino Aurora
- Hollywood Casino Joliet
- Jumer’s Casino & Hotel
- Par-A-Dice Casino
- Rivers Casino
Pritzker ended mobile sports betting registration in Phase 4
The Illinois governor still ended mobile sports betting registration about a month ago, even when casinos were only able to operate at 50% capacity.
When Pritzker continued to extend his executive order in the fall and winter, it seemed like mobile registration at Illinois sportsbooks could be around until casinos fully reopened.
Barring new legislation, in-person registration is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Return of fans at Chicago sports stadiums
Right now, the Cubs and White Sox are allowing fans at 25% capacity, while the Bulls and Blackhawks will begin to do so on May 7.
According to the bridge phase plan, spectator event capacity will increase to 60%. So, we will be watching to see if the professional sports teams in Chicago can raise capacity once we reach that phase.
And once Illinois reaches Phase 5, sports stadiums should finally be able to reopen at full capacity.
Of course, the Bulls and Blackhawks won’t be playing in July. But the Cubs and White Sox will, so it looks like more fans will be coming through the gates come summer.
This reopening would also be good news for football season. The Bears played the full 2020 season without fans, but Soldier Field could be packed once again in 2021.
Right now, there are no retail sportsbooks at Illinois sporting venues. But in the next few years, DraftKings will operate a retail sportsbook at Wrigley Field.
Could this hurt Illinois online casino in negotiations?
Illinois lawmakers will discuss gaming proposals over the next few weeks, and online casinos are a hot issue.
There are bills in the House and Senate that would legalize internet gaming in Illinois. Internet Gaming Act HB 3142 was discussed at last week’s Executive Committee hearing.
One talking point in favor of online casinos is that it’s a way to support brick-and-mortar casinos during times of shutdown or reduced capacity.
While proponents could point out that there may be more reasons to limit in-person gatherings in future years, the timing for that argument isn’t great, as Illinois is preparing to reopen fully.