Detroit Casinos Will Reopen Under Strict Capacity Limits, Gov. Whitmer Must First Grant Permission

Posted on: June 8, 2020, 12:24h. 

Last updated on: June 8, 2020, 12:52h.

Detroit casinos, once permitted to reopen by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), will do so under numerous regulations tailored to protect public health and prevent a flare-up of new COVID-19 cases.

Detroit casinos Michigan Greektown
A jogger runs down a Detroit street with the blue Greektown Casino towering in the background. (Image: Ali Lapetina/Bloomberg)

Detroit’s three commercial casinos have been closed since March 16. There’s no time line as to when Whitmer might allow MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity, and Greektown to reopen.

When she does, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has a series of procedures each gaming facility will need to abide by.

The state gaming regulator says the commercial casinos will be limited to 15 percent of its standard occupancy. That’s far lower than in other states, where casinos have reopened at 50 percent capacity.

The Detroit gaming venues will additionally limit the number of entry points, and each accessible entryway will need to be equipped with temperature checks. Smoking will be banned on the gaming floors, poker will remain closed, social distancing measures must be in place, and each casino must increase its cleaning protocols.

Eleven tribal casinos in Michigan have already reopened to guests.

Betting on Safety

Las Vegas casinos reopened last week, and while they’re required to stay under 50 percent capacity, it became evident that social distancing wasn’t always being observed. Photos and videos emerged on social media showing crowded gaming floors and players congregating around table games and at bars.

Under the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s “Health and Safety Policies for Resumption of Gaming Operations,” the state’s casinos “must ensure that the floor plan for gaming machines creates proper social distancing between patrons.” The reopening document also states that “casino supervisors and managers must ensure that patrons do not congregate.”

The MGCB is further limiting each casino’s overall occupancy cap in an effort to better protect employees and guests.

In compiling these minimum guidelines, we considered CDC recommendations, Nevada Gaming Board guidelines, and information from the National Indian Gaming Commission,” explained MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm. “We required the casinos to propose reopening plans, and we consulted with the casino unions on the guidelines.”

“We believe the guidelines will protect the public when it is safe to reopen the casinos,” Kalm concluded.

Full Reopening Ways Away

Detroit is home to the only commercial casinos in Michigan. The three properties won a record $1.45 billion in 2019. This year started strong for the casinos – gross gaming revenue (GGR) up nearly seven percent through February, and sports betting readying to go live. Then the coronavirus struck.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) says he doesn’t expect the casinos to resume full-scale operations until, perhaps, 2021. The mayor says that each day the casinos are closed costs the city $600,000 in lost tax revenue.

In 2019, the Detroit casinos delivered $184.2 million in city taxes and fees. The city collects 10.9 percent of each casino’s net win, plus annual operating payments. The funds are allocated for police and fire department costs, economic development programs that create local jobs, anti-gang and youth development initiatives, and city infrastructure improvements.