Gaming Board Sets Stage For Illinois Casinos To Reopen

Posted on June 12, 2020 - Last Updated on June 15, 2020

There’s still no official date or timeline for when gaming facilities in Illinois will welcome guests again. The approval of a reopening plan for Illinois casinos represents a necessary preliminary step, however.

On Thursday, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) made the plan’s details public. The timing suggests a possible relaunch for the state’s 10 casinos later this month.

Details of the Illinois casino reopening plan

IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter made clear that Illinoisans shouldn’t misconstrue the release of the protocols as a signal that the reopening of casinos and racetracks is imminent.

Fruchter stated:

“The timing and conditions for such a resumption will be based upon public health guidance and metrics, and will proceed within the framework of Gov. (JB) Pritzker’s ‘Restore Illinois’ plan.”

The protocols are similar to those in other states that are allowing casinos to reopen. For example, social distancing requirements will demand that casinos institute a maximum capacity of 50% of the fire code.

The gaming board will require Illinois casinos to keep amenities, like self-service buffets and valet services, closed. Additionally, the board will mandate casino employees to undergo daily temperature screenings and wear face masks.

The IGB leaves many other details up to the casino operators to decide for themselves. These include requiring casino customers to wear masks, how to achieve distancing on floors and the frequency of enhanced cleaning procedures.

In other states, many casino operators have voluntarily exceeded the safety requirements. Examples of this at IL casinos may include installing plexiglass barriers at tables and reducing seating.

Meanwhile, at land-based sportsbooks, the IGB took some action on that front during its meeting on Thursday. The landscape of legal sports betting in the state is taking shape.

IGB approves seven license applications

Until Thursday, all sports betting license holders in the state only held temporary certificates. The IGB effectively converted some of those during its meeting.

The state gaming board unanimously voted to approve four-year master licenses for seven gaming facilities. Most of them hadn’t yet opened before IL casinos shut down on March 16. The casinos are:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • Grand Victoria Casino
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Rivers Casino-Des Plaines
  • Casino Queen
  • Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino

Until casinos reopen, Illinois residents and visitors won’t be able to place legal wagers. Even though Gov. Pritzker has suspended the in-person registration requirement, there aren’t any sports betting apps accepting bets online in Illinois yet.

That’s unlikely to change anytime soon. The IGB has yet to issue any vendor licenses to online sportsbook operators, and BetRivers, the online version of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, has yet to announce a target date for its launch.

The earliest implementation of these health and safety policies could lead to casinos reopening by June 26. Pritzker included these facilities in Phase 4 of his plan to reopen the state and set that day as the earliest possibility for entering that phase.

Phase 4 doesn’t explicitly include off-track betting sites and video lottery terminal rooms. OTBs and VLT rooms may have to wait for the fifth and final stage of the reopening, or until Pritzker lifts his order entirely.

The announcement of these protocols gives casinos time to prepare if that date becomes relevant. However, Illinoisans shouldn’t assume that June 26 will be when they can revisit land-based sportsbooks.

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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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