Nearly two dozen US casinos, mostly tribal, have reopened to guests

Betting On Coronavirus Precautions, US Casinos Reopen In Growing Numbers

This is a developing story. Last updated May 15.

Land-based casinos around the country have been shuttered since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, but public pressure is driving businesses of all sorts toward their reopening.

Considering it is both high-risk and nonessential, the hospitality and entertainment industry is likely to be among the last to fully reopen in most states. Even so, a growing number of casinos are making the decision to welcome guests back to their properties.

According to the American Gaming Association, there are nearly 1,000 casinos in the US. Of those:

  • 26 are open
  • 963 are closed

Casinos open to gamblers in five states

As of last Wednesday, only a single tribal casino had reopened — Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. It did brisk business despite offering a limited range of games and services and requiring guests to wear masks. The admission line stretched up to a quarter mile, and the property set an all-time record for its nightly drop on opening weekend.

That success underscores the demand that exists for the return of land-based gambling, and other casinos have since followed suit. No state has yet given the go-ahead for its gaming industry to fully reopen, mind you. Most casinos that have done so are tribal properties not beholden to state laws or directives.

The primary exception is the town of Deadwood in South Dakota, which gave its commercial casinos the green light on May 7. A dozen local properties have jumped on the opportunity so far.

A further 13 tribal casinos in other states have followed to bring the total to 26 active gambling establishments.

  • Oklahoma (8)
  • Washington (4)
  • Montana (1)

In a study from Synergy Blue, slightly over half of gamblers said they were willing to return to casinos as soon as they reopen. Among those that said they wouldn’t, economic factors rated more highly as a concern than the risk of contagion.

More US casinos set to reopen soon

That list is likely to grow significantly in the coming days, as a number of other casinos have announced their intentions to reopen on Friday or early next week. Two states and one California county are hoping to reopen in a larger way next Monday.

Cautious reopening requires preparation, however, and things don’t always go according to plan. Island Casino in Michigan, for example, planned to reopen on May 6 but hit the brakes just 24 hours before citing “unforeseen circumstances.” It now expects to open this weekend instead.

Here’s a partial list of the casinos that plan to reopen imminently:

May 15

May 18

Casinos in most states still eyeing June

Though the number of reopened casinos could easily hit 100 or more before the month ends, a large majority will remain closed for at least several more weeks. Commercial casinos can’t make the decision for themselves the way tribal casinos can, and must wait for authorization from state and local governments.

Few states are considering fully reopening their economies until mid-June at the earliest. Many will start the process sooner, but casinos and other gambling-related businesses are generally included in the later stages because of the crowds they attract.

  • Massachusetts: The governor’s closure order expires on May 18 but was already extended once and could be again. The state is considering the possibility of allowing outdoor gaming areas for its casinos as a temporary measure during a phased reopening.
  • New York: The state’s four-phased plan doesn’t specifically address casinos, but other types of entertainment are set to reopen in its third and fourth phases. Casinos will likely find themselves in the same boat, which means a probable reopening in mid-to-late June.
  • California: The Golden State is taking a county-by-county approach to reopening its casinos. San Diego County made the decision to include them in an early phase of the plan, but some other counties will likely wait longer.

Even Nevada is not including casinos in the first phase of its reopening plans. While no date has been set for its gaming industry to resume operations, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has established safety guidelines for when the time comes.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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