Illinois Casinos Reopen Under Tough New Rules
Illinois' 10 casinos have reopened with new health protocols and an assurance from the Illinois Gaming Board that it will revoke the license of properties that don’t follow them. Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter (l.) said the measures are vital to prevent a Covid surge—and another shutdown.
Illinois’ 10 casinos reopened July 1 after being closed since March 16 due to Covid-19. At Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, visitors stood in a long line before the casino opened at 11:00 a.m. By mid-day, nearly 1,000 guests—half the venue’s regular occupancy—were on the gaming floor, officials said. General Manager Corey Wise said, “We’re trying to be a leader in keeping people safe. The last thing we want is to have to close again.”
New health and safety protocols include around-the-clock cleaning, numerous hand sanitizing stations and hundreds of clear partitions separating slot machines, cash counters and card dealers. Employees and players must wear masks. Also, casinos must provide free personal protective equipment and daily health screenings to employees and post signage reminding gamblers about social distancing. All gaming equipment must be regularly disinfected, including dice, chips, cards and roulette wheels.
The Illinois Gaming Board has made it clear it will revoke the license of any casino or video gaming establishment that does not enforce the new health and safety requirements. Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said, “More importantly, disregard of such preventative measures and requirements could contribute to a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Illinois and another potential suspension of gaming operations. That is a result nobody wants. We urge you not to let it happen.”
The reopening of River Casino means more than 1,200 Rivers employees came back to work. Wise said the casino expects to return to its normal level of 1,400 workers soon. About 5,000 casino workers returned to their jobs throughout the state.
The casinos hope to make up lost revenue sooner rather than later. Gamblers lost about $470 million at Illinois casinos and almost $587 million at video slots from March through June last year, generating more than one-quarter billion dollars in state tax revenue–money nearly totally lost this year.