Casinos in Detroit will be going on a three-week shutdown starting on Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Sunday.
The casino closure is part of an enhanced effort to control the spread of COVID-19, which, as it has across the country, has increased rapidly in Michigan. Through Saturday, the state has reported 251,813 cases. More than 98,000 of those cases stem from Oct. 15. Of the 7,993 deaths reported because of the virus, 959 have happened in the past month.
If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed,” Whitmer said. “We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
The order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services goes after what it calls “indoor social gatherings,” which it claims is a leading cause of the spread. However, the state will not limit all indoor activities. Entertainment and recreational facilities, like theaters, bowling alleys, and night clubs must close, but restaurants can continue to allow outdoor dining. Retail outlets, libraries, and museums can remain open as long as they do not exceed 30 percent capacity.
While arenas and stadiums will be closed to fans, professional and college sports will be allowed to continue as long as they meet “extraordinary standards” for reducing risk.
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “The order is targeted and temporary. But a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act. By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”
Michigan’s order to close casinos is the first by any state since governments closed them in rapid succession back in March. Since casinos reopened, some have closed on their own for brief periods because of COVID-19 cases. But states like New York and Illinois have reduced casinos hours of operation as cases have spiked there.
Detroit’s casinos were among the last commercial gaming establishments to reopen, doing so on Aug. 5. When they did, they were limited to just 15 percent capacity.
It remains to be seen just how the city’s casinos will react to the closure. It’s an open question on whether they will maintain their active workers on the payroll, or if they will seek to furlough them. Sunday’s order is good through Dec. 8, though state officials may choose to extend or revise the order.
A spokesperson for MGM Resorts International, which operates the MGM Grand Detroit, told Casino.org Sunday night the company had no comment or information yet.
The state also has 24 tribal casinos as well. Those properties are not subject to the MDHHS order, so it’s uncertain if they’ll follow suit. The tribal venues did eventually close in March to help control the spread of the virus. However, they also opted to reopen in the spring rather than wait until August.
One thing that could help mitigate the impact of lost income would be iGaming and mobile sports betting. When Michigan legalized sports betting last year, it allowed for casinos to offer mobile sports betting and iGaming. However, regulations for both are currently going through the state’s vetting process.
There once was hope mobile sports betting and iGaming could launch in Michigan by year’s end. However, it’s looking more likely the apps will become available some time after the first of the new year.
Still, some providers are trying to get a head start. FanDuel has offered Michigan bettors who register in advance $100 in free bets, including $50 each for mobile sports betting and iGaming. DraftKings is offering bettors $200 in free bets, split similarly.