As the COVID-19 outlook continues to improve in Illinois, several video gaming terminals (VGTs) throughout the state can resume operations.
Illinois’ COVID-19 positivity rate fell to 5.9% on Monday. It soared beyond 13% in mid-November, when Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all Illinois casinos and VGTs to close.
It appears as though the increased mitigations, in addition to the vaccine, have the state headed in the right direction.
Casinos and VGTs are now able to resume operations if their regions meet certain COVID-19 criteria. As of Tuesday, five of the state’s 10 casinos are open.
We have all of your live IL casino updates here. But what about VGTs? Here’s where you’ll see them open.
Illinois VGTs in these areas can operate
Illinois is divided into 11 health-care regions. Ten of those regions have VGTs. At the moment, eight of those 10 regions are able to resume VGT operations.
Those are, by region:
- 1 (Northwest Illinois)
- 2 (West-Central Illinois)
- 3 (West Illinois)
- 5 (South Illinois)
- 6 (East-Central Illinois)
- 8 (DuPage, Kane counties)
- 9 (McHenry, Lake counties)
- 10 (Suburban Cook County)
Regions 4 (Southwest Illinois) and 7 (Will, Kankakee counties) are excluded from this list.
That’s because they are still subject to Tier 3 mitigations. If they graduate to Tier 2 or Tier 1, they will be able to reopen casinos and VGTs.
Per the Illinois Gaming Board website, players must wear masks at all times inside of video gaming areas. There is also a one-person per video gaming area limit. Congregating around video gaming terminals is prohibited.
There are more than 7,400 VGTs in Illinois. Pritzker shut them down from mid-March until July 1 due to COVID-19, and then again from mid-November to mid-January.
When can Region 4, 7 video gaming terminals resume?
It all depends on their COVID-19 numbers.
In order for Region 4 and 7 casinos and VGTs to reopen, they need to meet the following COVID-19 criteria.
- A seven-day positivity rate of 12% or lower for at least three straight days.
- Hospital, ICU bed availability of 20% or higher for at least three straight days.
- Decrease in hospitalizations for at least seven out of the 10 preceding days.
Here’s where each region stands based on the latest data.
Region 4 (Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair and Washington counties)
- Positivity Rate: 9.2%
- Hospital Bed Availability: 14% (increasing)
- ICU Bed Availability: 18% (steady)
- Hospitalizations: Decreasing in five of the last 10 days.
As of now, Region 4 only meets the positivity rate criteria. It still needs more hospital and ICU bed availability, as well as more of a decrease in hospitalizations.
Region 7 (Will and Kankakee counties)
- Positivity Rate: 8.5% (decreasing)
- Hospital Bed Availability: 24% (steady)
- ICU Bed Availability: 26% (steady)
- Hospitalizations: Decreasing in four of the last 10 days.
Last week at this time, Region 7 met Tier 2 criteria. Since then, it has fallen back into Tier 3 because it hasn’t met the hospitalization decreasing requirement.
If hospitalizations improve, Region 7 could jump back into Tier 2, which would allow for VGTs and casinos to reopen.
For anyone wondering why Hollywood Casino Joliet announced it would reopen before walking that back soon after, there’s your answer.
Businesses counting on VGTs
Found mostly at bars, restaurants and truck stops, VGTs are a key revenue driver for various establishments that have been hit hard by COVID-19.
Accel Entertainment, a leading VGT provider, estimates that establishments make an average of $60,000 per year from the machines.
Also, 29% of VGT revenue goes to the state, so Illinois has incentive to let them resume operations.
Hopefully, for everyone’s sake, this is the last shutdown for a long time.