Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker Orders Casinos to Close in Latest COVID-19 Mitigation Directive

Posted on: November 18, 2020, 09:40h. 

Last updated on: November 18, 2020, 12:09h.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D) is once again forcing the state’s 10 commercial casinos to shut their doors because of a surge of new COVID-19 cases.

Illinois casinos JB Pritzker
Illinois casinos are once again closing their doors, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker, seen here, rolled back reopenings due to an increase in COVID-19 cases. (Image: Chicago Sun-Times)

Yesterday, the billionaire first-term governor announced the reimplementation of coronavirus restrictions. The new “Tier 3” mitigations, part of Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan, requires all casinos to shutter at 12:01 am Friday, November 20. There is no set date for when casinos might be permitted to reopen.

Tier 3 also suspends indoor dining and gatherings. Offices should work remotely, if possible.

This is not a stay-at-home order. But the best way for us to avoid a stay-at-home order is to stay home,” Pritzker declared. “These mitigations pause a number of indoor activities where the science shows us this virus can most easily spread.”

Illinois reported 12,601 new COVID-19 cases and 97 deaths on Monday. The state’s seven-day test positivity rate has jumped to 14.5 percent. Along with casinos, Tier 3 requires that the more than 37,000 video gaming terminals (VGTs) in 7,135 establishments throughout the state be powered down.

Second Closure’s a Charm?

Illinois was the first state in the nation to shutter its commercial casinos in the wake of the pandemic. Pritzker ordered the gaming venues to suspend operations on March 15. The directive also applied to VGTs.

Casinos and the gaming terminals commonly found inside truck stops, bars, and fraternal organizations were permitted to resume operations on July 1. For casinos, their resumption of play came with numerous coronavirus restrictions, most critically operating at a 50 percent capacity. Both casino employees and guests are required to wear facemasks while inside.

Illinois’ 10 casinos reported gross gaming revenue (GGR) of $269.5 million in the third quarter. That’s a 21.9 percent decline compared with the same three months in 2019 — or a loss of $75.7 million gaming dollars.

Q3 was nonetheless an improvement on the second quarter. With the casinos closed throughout, the total GGR was $0.

Q4 is now looking to be a GGR retraction from Q3, as Illinois’ casinos will once again be dark. For how long, Pritzker says, is up to the general public.

“Tier 3 boils down to this: if you don’t need to do it, don’t,” the governor said. “The more we can avoid gatherings, especially indoors with people that we don’t already live with, the more likely we are to be able to celebrate the December holidays with less risk to our loved ones and ourselves.”

Penn National Hurt by Closure 

Pritzker’s decision to reclose casinos is especially damaging to Penn National Gaming. The Pennsylvania-based casino firm operates three of the 10 Illinois casinos — Argosy Alton, Hollywood Aurora, and Hollywood Joliet.

Roughly six percent of Penn’s net revenue in 2019 was derived from its three Illinois properties.

The good news is that mobile sports betting is operational in the Land of Lincoln, and it’s thriving. Illinois sports betting handle totaled $305.2 million in September, making the state the fourth-largest sports betting market behind Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Of the $305 million wagered, 92.7 percent — or $283.1 million — was wagered online.