Illinois Casinos, Gambling Machine Operations Get Green Light to Reopen From July 1

  • Illinois Gaming Board announced the date on June 25 along with the reopening rules
  • All ten casinos in the state have to first submit reopening plans for approval by the board
  • Casinos will operate at 50% capacity with six-foot social distancing enforced, no poker rooms
  • Video gambling machines need to be at least six feet apart or be divided by partitions
person wearing mask taking down COVID-19 closed sign while opening door of business outlet
The Illinois Gaming Board has given casinos and gambling machine operations the green light to resume business activity from July 1. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A defined timeline

The Illinois Gaming Board has announced that casinos and video gambling machine operations in the state can resume business activity from July 1 at 9am. The reopening of facilities is subject to operators meeting the health and safety protocols outlined. 

restart activity while protecting the health of industry employees and the public

Illinois Gaming Board administrator Marcus Fruchter issued a news release on June 25 outlining plans and required measures for the resumption of gambling businesses in the state. The aim is to restart activity while protecting the health of industry employees and the public. 

All ten casinos in Illinois will need to submit their own reopening plans to the gaming board for approval. No indication has been given regarding which casino establishments plan to reopen on July 1. 

The reopening rules

The restrictions outlined for casinos upon reopening include operating at 50% capacity. Six-feet social distancing applies at all slot machines, table games, restaurants, sportsbooks, and other public areas. Valet parking, buffets, and poker rooms cannot reopen yet. All staff and customers will need to wear face coverings, and employees will be provided with free protective equipment. 

operating at 50% capacity

There will be regular health screenings of employees and patrons upon entering gambling premises, while detailed schedules for sanitizing the facilities will be in place.

Each casino will also need to establish a “pandemic response liaison” with the state authorities on matters related to reopening and to work with public health officials in their contact tracing efforts.

Only 168 out of more than 7,400 video gambling machine operators in the state have so far got approval to open their doors on July 1, according to board spokesman Joe Miller. These gambling terminals, which are frequently located in the likes of truck stops, restaurants, and bars, need to be at least six feet apart from each other unless dividing partitions are erected.

Video gambling terminal operators must also submit a detailed reopening plan and have daily health screenings for customers and employees.

Much-needed revenue

Illinois has a significant state budget deficit, with gambling revenue helping out in this regard. Sports bettors have been able to register for online sports betting accounts from home despite the statewide lockdown. Earlier this month, Governor J.B. Pritzker suspended the in-person registration requirement to allow sports betting to continue. The state’s first online sportsbook launched last week through Rivers Casino.

video gambling machines make up the second-biggest gaming revenue driver

Illinois’ 36,000-plus video gambling machines make up the second-biggest gaming revenue driver, behind the state lottery. From March until June 2019, state revenue from casinos was $114m, while video gambling machine revenue amounted to $147m.

COVID-19 shutdown

All casino and gaming machine operations in Illinois have been suspended since the March 16 stay-at-home order was issued in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. More than 5,000 casino workers have been out of work since. It was recently hoped that the state’s casinos would reopen by June 26.

Phase Four of the reopening plan is set to begin on Friday, with Illinois restaurants, gyms, and museums resuming business activity at reduced capacity. To date, there have been more than 139,430 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, resulting in 6,810 deaths.