The Illinois Gaming Board released a memo Wednesday outlining its vision for the return of video gaming.
Video gaming has been suspended in Illinois since March 16. Recent progress in the fight against COVID-19 means it could resume before the end of June, though.
What is the timeline for video gaming?
Marcus Fruchter, the administrator of the IGB, released the updated memo to terminal operators across Illinois, outlining the safety protocols required for a resumption of video gaming.
Following the memo, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said each of the state’s four health regions could move to Phase 4 of its Restore Illinois plan by next week.
The IGB intends to hold off the resumption of video gaming until the state reaches Phase 4. That phase also allows gatherings of up to 50 people and limited-capacity reopenings of bars, restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters.
“All regions seem to be meeting metrics to move to Phase 4,” said Pritzker, whose plan includes five phases.
The IGB memo says state officials can initiate Phase 4 on June 26. The resumption of video gaming operations will likely happen sometime after that date.
“The IGB will announce when VGTs (video gaming terminals) will go live,” notes the memo.
Social distancing, partitions the new reality
Terminal operators and licensed establishments can decide on their own how many VGTs to operate in each location following the start of Phase 4.
The IGB, however, has mandated operators follow a set of safety guidelines prior to welcoming back gamers. The guidelines involve transparent physical partitions between players and layout adjustments that place each VGT at least 6 feet apart.
Another option is a partial reopening that activates only the machines already at 6-foot intervals until the establishment can comply further. It’s possible some locations will use this choice given the quick turnaround from the IGB’s memo to the likely start of Phase 4.
VGT parlors to offer masks, undertake deep cleans
Each terminal operator is required to submit a Pandemic Resumption Plan to the IGB, which the board must approve before players are permitted to use video gaming machines.
Each plan requires an extensive look at how operators will meet the requirements to protect patrons from COVID-19:
- Social distancing
- Face masks for employees and players
- Plans for “recurring deep cleaning,” sanitizer stations
- Occupancy limits
- Health screenings
- Employee training
While most operators have likely already established such plans, the approval process and the resumption of VGTs will be a major undertaking for both state officials and those who own the machines.
Nonetheless, Phase 4 will bring a sigh of relief for many in Illinois, gamers and operators alike.
“The IGB is … mindful of the hardship and dire economic disruption this pandemic is causing for the video gaming industry, licensees and their employees, and communities across Illinois,” writes Fruchter in his memo.
“The IGB is committed to the safe, fair, deliberate, consistent, and regulatory compliant resumption of video gaming.”