Illinois Video Gaming Venues, Casinos to Take ‘Monster Hit’ as Governor Orders Closures

  • Shutdowns to take place at end of gaming day on Thursday
  • More than 12,000 fresh COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois on November 17
  • Switching off 37,000+ VGTs will cause a “monster hit” in revenue for the state
  • Communities benefited from $8.4m in municipal tax VGTs paid out in October
  • Casinos across the US are closing as the second wave of the pandemic spreads
lion statue in Chicago wearing face mask with Chicago flag

Order effective 11:01pm Thursday

Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) have announced that video gaming facilities and casinos must shut down “at the conclusion of the gaming day at 11:01pm” on November 19. The November 17 order comes as the Prairie State attempts to halt the rising spread of COVID-19 infections and fatalities, with over 12,000 fresh cases along with 97 fatalities reported Tuesday.

In a tweet, Pritzker shared an infographic of the Tier 3 resurgence mitigation plan, which includes the shuttering of casinos, gaming establishments, and cultural institutions such as museums.

Under the governor’s new directive, performing arts and movie theatres plus indoor sports recreation centers will also need to close on Thursday night for an unspecified duration. Casinos and gaming establishments were already operating under mitigation procedures, but this latest measure will represent another major hit after the previous shutdown from March 16 until July 1.

Restaurants and bars will remain closed to indoor service. The new order limits outdoor gatherings to just six people while prohibiting gatherings at banquet halls and event spaces.

VGT closures to have a ripple effect

According to an NBC 5 Chicago report, switching off more than 37,000 video gaming terminals (VGTs) at over 7,000 venues will represent “a monster hit in revenue which was flowing like a firehose into state coffers.”

switching off more than 37,000 video gaming terminals (VGTs) will represent “a monster hit in revenue”

Pritzker singled out the VGTs during a live address on Tuesday, saying: “Many of the reasons that some of the bars and restaurants were keeping their doors open was because their video gaming terminals were providing them with a lot of income.”

Figures published by the Illinois Gaming Board show that October income from VGTs was $168.4m, contributing $48.8m in tax revenue for the state. Of that total, $8.4m in municipal tax went to dozens of communities where the 37,459 VGTs are located.

While the Land of Lincoln’s ten riverboat casinos will also take a big hit, they only posted an October revenue of $16.5m. This is just a third of what VGTs made.

Caesars Entertainment and Penn National Gaming will feel the pinch the most, as each company operates three Illinois casinos. Boyd Gaming and Rush Street Gaming run one casino apiece. DraftKings has licensed its name to the operators of Casino Queen, while Jumer’s Casino is being sold to Bally’s Corporation.

Casinos shuttering across the US

The Illinois casino closures order follows a rising trend across the US. Under Pennsylvania’s new ‘Safer at Home’ measures, Rivers Casino Philadelphia and the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook facility will shutter from November 20 until at least January 1, 2021. Casinos in other parts of the state can continue operating under previously mandated restrictions.

Casinos in Teller Country, Colorado have to halt operations on November 23. Over in Michigan, Detroit’s three commercial casinos will close their doors starting today until December 8. Michigan’s 24 tribal casinos, however, are not subject to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s new order.