Two Detroit Casinos Intend to Reopen Poker Rooms

  • MotorCity plans to restart poker this week, apparently without MGCB approval
  • Greektown Casino wants to reopen its poker room in the next few weeks
  • Detroit’s three casinos are still under strict health and safety protocols
  • The Venetian poker room in Las Vegas has already launched a poker tournament series
MotorCity Casino in Detroit
Detroit’s MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino both said they intend to reopen their poker rooms soon, even through the MGCB has not approved any plans. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Regulators unaware of casinos’ plans

Detroit’s three commercial casinos reopened about five weeks ago and now two say they are going to do the same with their poker rooms. The problem is, those plans are news to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).

According to The Detroit News, the MotorCity Casino e-mailed customers last week, telling them that the poker room would open this week. A spokesperson for Penn Gaming, the parent company of Greektown Casino, told the newspaper that the casino hopes to start hosting poker games “in a few weeks”.

the MGCB needs to approve such a decision

Mary Kay Bean, a spokesperson for the MGCB, said that the board will discuss poker rooms once a casino says it wants to reopen one, so it appears that the time for that would be about now. But when told specifically about MotorCity’s apparent intention to start dealing cards this week, Bean said the MGCB needs to approve such a decision.

“The casinos must follow (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s) workplace safety executive order,” Bean told The Detroit News. “And the MGCB must approve the casinos’ plans on how social distancing and other health and safety requirements will be met.”

MGM Grand Detroit has no poker room plans for the near future.

Recovering from five-month closure

Michigan’s casinos closed in mid-March, as did casinos around the country, when the COVID-19 pandemic became impossible to ignore in the United States. Detroit casinos were among the last to reopen, as the city was one of the worst hit early on in the pandemic and serious mitigation efforts were required to get its COVID-19 numbers down to targeted levels.

Detroit casinos are only allowed to admit patrons up to 15% of capacity. Everybody in the casino must wear protective face coverings and all customers are subject to a temperature screening upon entry. Smoking is prohibited on the casino floor. And, as we have seen around the country, social distancing is required, facilitated by shutting off some electronic gaming devices.

The state’s two dozen tribal casinos enjoyed a competitive advantage over Detroit’s commercial casinos. That’s because they need not abide by the governor’s pandemic shutdown rules as they are on sovereign land. The tribal gambling facilities did close for a while, but some began reopening as early as late May.

There are no tribal casinos extremely close to Detroit, but several are within a reasonable distance. The closest is Firekeepers Casino in Battle Creek, less than two hours away by car. Many tribal casinos are on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in more sparsely populated areas, where the hope is that they are less susceptible to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Las Vegas poker rooms ramping up

Many poker rooms around the country have reopened, despite being the riskiest gaming areas of a casino. With people sitting around a poker table in close proximity for hours, repeatedly touching the same chips and cards, the environment is ripe for the spread of any virus.

When Nevada allowed its casinos to reopen in early June, four casinos revved up their poker rooms right away: Orleans, Venetian, South Point, and Golden Nugget. The Nevada Gaming Control Board originally restricted poker tables to just four players at a time, but the casinos successfully negotiated increasing that number by one.

first poker room to host a multi-table tournament

Cash games and single-table tournaments were the original poker room offerings when they reopened in Las Vegas. Later in June, the Venetian was the first Vegas poker room to host a multi-table tournament, capping fields at 80 players.

A week ago, the Venetian once gain pushed the envelope, holding Las Vegas’ first multi-table tournament series during the pandemic. Each event has drawn from about 100 to several hundred players. The DeepStack Showdown runs through September 27 and features 32 tournaments with $400,000 in guaranteed prize pools.