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Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Says No Casinos Until Vaccine or Antiviral Breakthrough on Coronavirus

Detroit casinos will not fully reopen until a vaccine against COVID-19 surfaces, or at least until a breakthrough in antiviral medicine makes the virus less deadly to the population, the city’s Democratic mayor Mike Duggan said at a press conference Wednesday.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said the health of the community is more important than casino revenue during a coronavirus update to the press Wednesday. (Image: ClickOnDetroit)

Asked to put a time line on that, Duggan said he would be “surprised” if a successful vaccine is developed within a year.

“So we’re going to have to deal with it,” Duggan said. “Do the casinos end up reopening with 25 percent or 30 percent capacity? I don’t know.”

Duggan’s stance is aligned with Michigan’s Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was sued Wednesday by the state’s Republican-led legislature over her orders that non-essential businesses must remain closed.

Last week, armed protesters rallied in the capitol building in Lansing demanding an end to lockdown.

Cash Cows Sacrificed

Detroit’s three casinos, Greektown, MGM Detroit, and Motor City Casino have been a cash cow for the city. But they were closed March 15 and have furloughed most of their workforces.

Greektown and Motor City have agreed to continue paying benefits up until June 30 and MGM Resorts through August.

But MGM warned its 63,000 furloughed employees across America this week that some of them may be laid off after August 31. These layoffs could last over six months or become permanent, the casino giant said.

How Long Until Coronavirus Vaccine?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert on the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, has consistently said a vaccine could be ready in 12 to 18 months.

But others suggest this is optimistic, pointing out that no previous workable vaccine for any disease has been developed in anything near this time frame.

In the shorter term, there is hope that antiviral treatments may improve the health outcomes for people with acute COVID-19, as has been the case over the years for the HIV virus.

A desperate hunt for existing drugs that can be repurposed for the job is ongoing. One such drug, Remdesivir, developed to treat ebola, has shown to itself to be effective in two clinical trials and has been approved by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.

$600,000 Per Day Lockdown

But until a more significant scientific leap is made in the fight against the coronavirus, Duggan says, Detroit’s downtown entertainment district is a long way off from returning to normal. In the meantime, the city will have to get used to living without the revenues it receives from gaming.

It costs us $600,000 a day,” Duggan said. “I haven’t complained about it a single day because the health of the community is more important than revenue coming in.”

Elsewhere in Michigan, tribal casinos, which are not regulated by the state, are considering phased reopenings.

The Hannahville Indian Community said this week that it planned to begin offering slots, bingo and limited food and bar offerings at its Island Resort and Casino in Harris, near the north coast of Lake Michigan.

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