Illinois Readies to Reopen Casinos on January 15

Casinos in Illinois have been on a two month shutdown since mid-November with Gov. J.B. Pritzker giving some hope on Wednesday that the state may restart some businesses as early as January 15.

Easing up of Restrictions Likely

Casinos in Illinois may be headed for a restart as early as January 15 with the state preparing to lift Tier 3 restrictions, said Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday during a press conference.

Addressing the epidemiological situation in the state, Gov. Pritzker explained that all 11 regions that are currently stable can begin easing up restrictions while still complying with anti-pandemic measures.

A move away from Tier 3 means that casinos may be able to restart operation as well. Gov. Pritzker did warn that state authorities are currently monitoring the situation in the wake of the post-Christmas and New Year’s get-togethers that happened privately.

While no early signs of increase in infection rates have been recorded, the governor’s office remains “cautiously optimistic.” According to the governor, real progress has been achieved in the past several weeks.

A Prolonged Shutdown

Illinois has been in Tier 3 since mid-November, responding to a sudden spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. The increased number of new cases prompted the state to act quickly, and suspend all business operations, including casinos.

Overall, all 10 riverboat casinos have been suspended during the period, including 37,459 video gaming terminals at 7,135 locations, such as restaurants, truck stops, bars, taverns, and more.

Gov. Pritzker assured residents that the state has taken note of the post-Thanksgiving surge in cases and authorities were closely monitoring for early signs of new infections.

To lift Tier 3 restrictions, any region hoping to be put out of the red zone will have to post a positivity rate of less than 12% along with more than 20% ICU and hospital beds remaining capacity and an overall decline in Covid-19 hospitalizations.

Gambling Tax Suffers

Shutting casinos down, though, has not put a dent on Illinois’ soaring sports betting numbers, posting a 13% of the total handle in the United States for October, or $434 million, but it did impact casinos.

By October, Covid-19 shutdowns had cost the state an estimated $200 million in taxable gambling revenue. In the period between March and June, casinos raked in $943 million or a 30% decline year-over-year.

Overall, the state collected 13.4% less tax or $1.2 billion for the last fiscal year which ended on June 2020. Illinois can use a quick recovery in 2021 and part of this is not allowing the disease to spread any further.

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