After three months of suspended operations, casinos in Illinois will have a chance to go back to normal. Casinos and video gambling machine venues will be reopening on Wednesday, July 1.
Illinois Governor Gives Go-Ahead for Casino Restart
Illinois is making a return towards normality with casinos reopening next week following a three-month shutdown. On Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a former go-ahead for gambling firms to restart operations, enabling the ten state casinos and thousands of video gambling machine venues to welcome players as early as Wednesday, July 1.
The casinos will be rolling in after other businesses, which are reopening today, as part of Phase 4 of the state’s relaunch plan. With the state budget taking a battering, the governor and officials are eager to restart the flow of gambling tax revenue to prop up ailing finances.
And so are casinos excited to come back from hibernation. Yet, there are lessons to be learnt. Reopening the casino industry could lead to a spike in COVID-19, despite best intentions and health and safety standards. A Lone Butte Casino security guard died earlier this month after contracting COVID-19 on the job.
Gov. Pritzker said that the health of members of the staff and consumers will be of utmost importance. He also acknowledged that he was “no expert” on how many times the surface of a slot machine should be wiped “to make it safe.”
“Like other activities, we’re trying to do these things in measures, with lots of health and safety guidance. The No. 1 driving factor is people should not get sick while doing those activities.”
A Chance for the Economy to Restart
When the industry was shuttered, 5,000 casino employees were left without work, inflicting a double economic impact on the state, as gaming revenue also stopped coming in. Estimated $114 million in tax money had been paid between March and June 2019, money that didn’t come in this year.
Meanwhile, video slot machines over the same period last year contributed another $147 million, leaving the state short of over $250 million total in just three months. Neighboring states have been restarting operations at a good pace. Indiana and Wisconsin have been among the two states to open up shop, prompting the Illinois Gaming Board to create guidelines for the reopening of casinos.
As a result, all venues will be operated at 50% capacity, although this measure will be up for immediate revision should public health be endangered. Like elsewhere in the country, casinos will have to provide free protective face covering and display signage reminding patrons to comply with all measures.
There will be regular sterilization of all touchable surfaces and gaming equipment, including roulette wheels, chips, cards, dice and so on. According to Illinois Casino Gaming Association executive director Tom Swoik reassured that casinos are going to be one of the safest public places to be in the state.
Meanwhile, Illinois is planning on rolling out mobile and online gaming in a bid to recoup some of the lost revenue during the COVID-19 crisis.