Detroit Casinos Can Reopen December 21, But Indoor Dining Remains on Hold

Posted on: December 18, 2020, 12:57h. 

Last updated on: December 18, 2020, 03:48h.

Christmas is coming a little early for the three commercial casinos in Detroit. During a press conference today, the first-term governor said the three casinos can reopen with a highly reduced capacity limit on Monday, Dec. 21

Detroit casinos Michigan gambling
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, seen here, says Detroit casinos can welcome back gamblers next week. (Image: Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer)

Last month, MGM Grand, MotorCity, and Greektown were forced to close for a second time on Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) orders.

But on the 21st, Whitmer is allowing casinos, as well as bowling alleys and movie theaters, to reopen with a total capacity not to exceed 100 people “in the same space.” The three casinos did not immediately say whether they intend to open under such strict constraints.

These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” Whitmer announced.

The governor’s decision comes after the state experienced a two-week decline in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and a reduction in new cases. Michigan is reporting 439 cases per one million people, down from its peak of 739 in mid-November.

Restrictions, Shutdowns Costly

Whitmer first ordered the Detroit casinos to close on March 16. When they were permitted to reopen on August 5, they were limited to 15 percent operating capacity. The state was one of the last states to allow commercial gaming to recommence.

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) for the commercial casinos in the second quarter of 2020 totaled $0. They won $163.6 million in Q3, a 53.4 percent decline compared with the same three months in 2019.

As a result of the latest three-week gaming shutdown, MGM Grand, MotorCity, and Greektown are projected to miss out on $67 million in lost revenue. Meanwhile, the majority of tribal casinos in the Great Lake State have remained open, as they are not under Whitmer’s oversight.

Online Gaming Rescue

Detroit’s casinos will soon be able to generate GGR regardless of whether their brick-and-mortar operations are ordered shut by the state. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) last week approved 15 online gaming and sports betting permits.

The platform providers still must meet other regulatory requirements before online gaming and sports betting can launch in Michigan. The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements,” explained MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm.

The iGaming platforms will need to undergo independent testing of their games and operations to ensure gaming integrity. Key employees working for the firms must also obtain occupational licenses from the MGCB.

Whitmer signed House Bill 4916 a year ago this month. The legislation authorized sports betting at the Detroit casinos and Michigan tribal gaming venues and also approved online gambling and mobile sports betting.

Though they cannot yet facilitate games or take bets, the 15 online gaming companies are underway with trying to grab market share. The iGaming firms are advertising heavily, offering free bets to gamblers who create their internet casino and sports betting accounts now.