Michigan Governor Closes Casinos for Three Weeks as COVID-19 Cases Rise

  • The three commercial casinos in Detroit will remain shuttered until December 8
  • COVID-19 cases in the state have been rising significantly in recent weeks
  • Detroit casinos only reopened at 15% capacity on August 5 post-pandemic
  • The 24 tribal casinos in Michigan do not have to adhere to the latest directive
  • Other states are curtailing casino operations, no other full closures ordered to date
closed due to Covid-19 sign on glass door
Commercial casinos in Detroit, Michigan have to close their doors for three weeks owing to rising COVID-19 cases. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

New restrictions to curb infection rate

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a new order on Sunday that will see casinos in the state shutting for three weeks starting Wednesday. The directive aims to help stop the spread of COVID-19, in the wake of a significant surge in cases over the recent weeks. 

The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services announced the details of the emergency order in a tweet:

As a result, Michigan’s three commercial casinos – located in Detroit – will close their doors until the restrictions end provisionally on December 8. The properties concerned are the MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino, and Motor City Casino. 

restrictions end provisionally on December 8

In-person classes at high schools or colleges will also stop, restaurants cannot offer indoor dining, and organized sports in the region will come to a halt. Curtailments will be in place for indoor and outdoor gatherings, while entertainment facilities will close.

According to New York Times figures, the 14-day change in Michigan for positive COVID-19 cases is +113%. The state saw an average of 6,687 new cases each day over the past week. Governor Whitmer said of the current situation: “If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed.”

The post-pandemic state of Michigan casinos

Michigan is the first US state to order the full closure of casinos in recent weeks. The casinos in Detroit were among the last in the country to reopen after the initial round of pandemic shutdowns in March, not getting back to business until August 5. They could only operate at 15% capacity upon reopening.

casinos in Detroit were among the last in the country to reopen

There is no indication of how the three-week shutdown will affect employees at the three gambling properties. 

The 24 tribal casinos in Michigan are not subject to the governor’s order, and it is unclear whether these will remain open. Tribes-owned gaming facilities did close their doors in March for a time, before mostly resuming activity in the spring. 

Online sports betting and online casinos are nearing launch in Michigan. The regulations for both sectors are currently under review, with operators hoping to roll out their offerings in the coming months. Online gambling operations in states like New Jersey helped mitigate some revenue losses associated with land-based casino property shutdowns earlier this year.

Other US states taking action

Other states across the US are also implementing restrictions on their respective gambling sectors, following a nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker restricted opening hours for riverboat casinos and venues housing video-gaming terminals. The state may also consider a mandatory stay-at-home order in the near future. 

Massachusetts casinos now have to close from 9:30pm until 5:30am daily. Last week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered a curfew on indoor dining in the state, including at Atlantic City casinos, from 10pm until 5am. There is also a similar restriction in place for casinos in New York.

In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak wants residents to stay in their homes as much as possible in the coming weeks to help slow the virus spread. However, he has not yet imposed any new restrictions on casinos. Sisolak also announced on Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19.