Arkansas, Illinois Extend Casino Closure Amid Worsening Covid-19 Situation

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As the coronavirus /Covid-19/ outbreak gathers pace in the US, several states including Arkansas and Illinois have extended casino closure beyond the initial date. In Arkansas, temporary shutdown of land-based gaming facilities will continue throughout April, while in Illinois, the Illinois Gaming Board extended the closure of state casinos to April 8.

Arkansas New Date

The order signed by St. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, in consultation with the Secretary of Health, Nathaniel Smith, directly affected the three operating casinos in Arkansas, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs, Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis and the Saracen Casino Annexin Pine Bluff. Though the Oaklawn gaming facility was ordered to close, the race track would remain open, albeit with all scheduled races running behind closed doors.

The fourth one, Saracen Casino Resort, a $350 million integrated casino resort that is currently under development, though not affected from the initial closure and work continued, after implementing recommended measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention /CDC/ to prevent the spread of the virus, is now closed too.

Illinois Second Extension

The Illinois Gaming Board issued an update March 27, extending the closure for all gaming facilities in the state until April 8. The order affected all 10 land-based casinos that were initially expected to shut down operations for 14 days, but now, in line with St. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order for all Illinois to stay at home, will have to remain closed even longer.

“The health and safety of patrons, gaming industry employees, Gaming Board staff, and all others in Illinois is the Gaming Board’s top priority.”

Illinois Gaming Board official statement

The decisions in both states to extend casino closure are putting in jeopardy hundreds of jobs, as casino workers will most likely be placed on furlough. Casino operators do not have many options at their disposal, as they seek to trim operational costs during times with no operations. Otherwise, they face the perspective of burning their cash reserves and being forced to file for a bankruptcy protection.

Federal Aid On Its Way

The recently approved federal stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security /CARES/ Act, to the extent of $2 trillion, sets provisions, including for the gaming companies to survive the current crisis.

These include a $454 billion loan pool to help companies across various industries, tax reliefs in terms of writing off building improvement costs that would otherwise be depreciated for 39 years, tax credits up to $10,000 per retained during the closure period employee, as well as tax payment deferral regarding the remaining of 2020 Social Security tax that can be paid in equal installments in the next two years.

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