Rhode Island Closes Casinos Indefinitely, State Clamps Down on Visitors

Posted on: March 28, 2020, 08:29h. 

Last updated on: March 29, 2020, 10:33h.

Rhode Island’s Twin River casinos in Tiverton and Lincoln now remain shuttered until further notice to help minimize risk from the expanding coronavirus outbreak.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, standing next to National Guard Brig. Gen. Christopher Callahan, is leading efforts to clamp down on visitors from New York while Rhode Island’s two casinos remain shuttered. (Image: Boston Globe)

The decision to extend the March 13 closure from a week to an indefinite amount of time was made on Thursday by Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald Aubin.

This mandatory closure will continue to be assessed in accordance with the Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines related to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19,” Aubin said in a letter to Twin River, the Providence Journal reported.

Most of the approximate 2,300 employees at the two casinos were furloughed. They are expected to get rehired when the gaming properties reopen.

The Journal further reported that legal gaming is Rhode Island’s third-biggest revenue source. In the current fiscal year which ends on June 30, the state anticipates getting $295.5 million from video-lottery terminals, $15 million from table games, and $9.4 million from sports betting, the Journal said.

“The company is working diligently to bring employees back to work as soon as possible when permitted,” Twin River spokeswoman Patti Doyle also told the Journal.

Casinos are also closed in nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut. Gaming properties in the other New England states are competitors to the two venues located in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Police, National Guard Interrogate Suspected New Yorkers

Rhode Island’s current out-of-state guests, whose demographic is among those who play at the state’s casinos, are not getting a warm welcome in Rhode Island, especially if they were recently in New York.

Rhode Island state troopers assisted by Rhode Island National Guard soldiers started to stop cars with New York license plates on Friday and interrogate passengers and drivers about their contact information.

Starting today, police and National Guard members will also knock on doors in coastal communities to seek individuals who were recently in New York. They are being ordered to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The Rhode Island ACLU says pulling over cars only because there are New York license plates is illegal. “Under the Fourth Amendment, having a New York state license plate simply does not, and cannot, constitute ‘probable cause’ to allow police to stop a car and interrogate the driver,” the ACLU said in a statement.

Violating the quarantine can lead to a fine, warned Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. Eventually, violators face a prison sentence, Raimondo added.

As of Friday, Rhode Island had 203 cases of coronavirus, much lower than the number in New York.

As of mid-day Friday, there were 6,481 patients hospitalized for coronavirus in New York state, according to The New York Times. In total, New York state saw 519 deaths from the outbreak as of Friday. About 45,000 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the state.

“We know New York is a hot spot, we know it’s a dangerous place,” Raimondo said Friday, WPRI reported.

US Casinos Now Closing for Longer Periods

Other states are also extending closures of casinos. In Massachusetts, gaming properties will be shuttered to at least April 7. Originally, the Bay State’s commercial casinos were closed on March 14 to at least March 29.

On the opposite coast, in California, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians announced the shuttering of the Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa and Casino Morongo was extended through April 12. The original closure was just through March 31.

And in the Midwest, Kansas will close casinos indefinitely. The original shuttering, announced on March 17, was only until March 30.