Illinois Approves Casinos, Gaming Terminals to Reopen Statewide

Posted on: June 25, 2020, 11:58h. 

Last updated on: June 26, 2020, 09:54h.

The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) announced on Thursday that the state’s 10 licensed casinos can resume operations effective at 9 a.m. CDT Wednesday.

Illinois casinos reopening
The gaming floor of the Harrah’s Metropolis riverboat casino in Metropolis, Ill., seen here in a January photo, will look different come Wednesday when it reopens. All casinos have been closed in Illinois since mid-March because of COVID-19, and the casinos will reopen at a limited capacity and enforce social distancing guidelines. (Image: Harrah’s Metropolis)

The decision comes more than three-and-a-half months after the state closed down the casinos because of the coronavirus pandemic. Based on guidelines the IGB announced two weeks ago, casinos can open up to 50 percent capacity, although the board has the discretion to adjust that threshold based on public safety concerns. Six-foot social distancing requirements must also be met on the gaming floor, including table games.

The Gaming Board worked with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to develop a gaming resumption process. The goal is to protects the public health of patrons and employees while restarting gaming activities in a meaningful way, the Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said in a statement.

The guidelines also call on casinos to observe the state’s requirements for the use of face masks. The masks are mandatory for people in public indoor spaces and outline the steps they will take for guests who fail to comply.

Casinos will have a supply of masks available.

Among the services that casinos cannot offer immediately include buffets and valet parking. Poker rooms must remain closed, and casinos cannot hold any table game tournaments.

By the end of Thursday night, the Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino in East Peoria and Harrah’s Metropolis, located in the state’s southern tip, announced their intention to open on Wednesday.

VGTs Back in Action

The IGB’s order also applies to video game terminals (VGT), which are allowed in truck stops, fraternal organizations, and businesses that can serve alcohol.

In March, when the state shut down retail gaming, nearly 7,300 establishments offered games statewide, with more than 36,000 machines available for play.

Like the casinos, VGT operators had to submit a reopening plan for the IGB to review and approve before they can restart the games. Again, face masks will be required, and the capacity at each establishment is contingent on their ability to either install hard partitions between machines or space them at least six feet apart.

“The video and casino gaming industry have worked cooperatively and professionally with the IGB to develop best practices that create the safest possible environment for gaming, while adhering to IDPH, DCEO, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance,” Fruchter said.

Pritzker Willing to Pull Back Reopening

The return of casino gaming and VGTs come as the state enters the fourth phase of its reopening plan. Gov. J.B Pritzker told reporters Thursday the main goal as the state moves forward with reopening is to keep people safe.

“The number one driving factor is people should not get sick while doing those activities,” he said.

While a number of states that have reopened are seeing a surge in COVID-19 crisis, Illinois still is projecting downward. As the number of tests increases, the number of positive cases identified continues to decrease steadily. Currently, the state’s positivity rate is at three percent.

However, Pritzker said that if the numbers show an increase, he will not hesitate to take action if the numbers start to rise.

“I’m not afraid to protect the people of Illinois by moving a region back to an earlier phase if we see a surge,” the Democratic governor said. “Ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to a return to the peak.”