Illinois Casinos Eyeing Possible January 15 Reopening

  • All 11 regions can stop Tier 3 restrictions on January 15, subject to COVID-19-related metrics
  • Announcement comes as Illinois emerged from Thanksgiving without a rise in virus cases
  • If casinos go back to Tier 2, they will still have to shut at 11pm and operate at 25% capacity
  • Illinois’s riverboat casinos posted an October revenue of $16.5m, compared to VGTs' $168.4m 
View of the Grand Victoria riverboat casino in Elgin, Illinois
Dice could be rolling again at riverboat casinos in Illinois from January 15, following Gov. Pritzker’s latest announcement. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Gov. Pritzker makes announcement

Riverboat casinos in Illinois could be back in action on January 15 after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that all 11 regions in the state can soon move out of Tier 3 restrictions, subject to COVID-19-related metrics.

Gov. Pritzker posted a video tweet of the January 6 press briefing, which also featured an update from the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), Dr Ngozi Ezike.

The good news for gamblers in the Prairie State comes after Illinois emerged from Thanksgiving without a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Reasons to be optimistic

Illinois’s Tier 3 restrictions came into effect on November 19, shuttering performing arts and movie theatres as well as indoor sports recreation centers. Casinos and gaming venues, which were already operating under Tier 2 mitigation procedures that included closing at 11pm and a 25% capacity limit, were also on the November closure list. Gambling facilities reapply these measures once they move back to Tier 2.

early signs that some regions have made real progress”

In his Wednesday news briefing, Gov. Pritzker said that, on the advice of Dr Ezike and other infectious disease experts in the state, it would be “unwise to downgrade any region […] while in the holiday season.”

As Illinois lifts Tier 3 restrictions across its 11 regions on January 15 subject to meeting set metrics, state officials will be on the lookout for any signs of an increase in infection rates following a post-festive season incubation period. Pritzker, however, said he was “cautiously optimistic as there are some early signs that some regions have made real progress.”

According to NBC 5 Chicago, any region can move to Tier 2 if its test positivity rate is less than 12% for three consecutive days. Other metrics include a 20% availability of ICU and hospital beds, plus a decrease in coronavirus hospitalizations across seven of the previous ten days.

Welcome return to business

For the Land of Lincoln’s ten riverboat casinos, the potential January 15 reopening date signals a welcome return to business, particularly for Caesars Entertainment and Penn National Gaming, which operate three riverboat casinos apiece.

Before the full November shutdown order came into effect, figures published by the Illinois Gaming Board revealed that the riverboat casinos posted an October 2020 revenue of $16.5m. This was just a third of the $168.4m that the state’s 37,459 video gaming terminals (VGTs) made in the same month, before they too had to switch off under Tier 3 regulations. The municipal tax that VGTs contributed to state coffers in October alone was over half the revenue made by the riverboat casinos.