This is a developing story. Last updated June 5.
June 1 was a huge day for the beleaguered US gambling industry, as several dozen casinos around the country reopened their doors to guests.
Just a few days later, on June 4, Nevada allowed its casinos to begin doing the same. It is home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s casinos. Although not all reopened immediately, enough did so to bring the industry past its halfway point. There are now more US casinos open than closed.
The closings came suddenly throughout mid-March, coinciding with the larger economic shutdown of the country. In the span of a week, the industry went from business as usual to the complete shuttering of all commercial and tribal casinos nationwide.
This week marks one month since casinos began reopening, starting with Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
The pace has generally been accelerating since, including nearly 100 that have resumed operations since Friday. Most of those did so on Monday, the first day of the first month of summer.
According to the American Gaming Association, there are nearly 1,000 casinos in the US. Of those:
There are 25 states with at least one casino open, while 15 remain fully closed and 10 had no casinos to begin with.
The weekend’s reopenings included casinos in four states which had until now remained entirely closed.
The northeastern US has been the area hardest hit by COVID-19 due to its population density and volume of international travel. Casinos in that region can generally be expected to reopen more slowly than others. As of last week, the only one open for business in the northeast was Lakeside Entertainment in central New York state.
Delaware and Connecticut have now bucked the trend, however, as casinos in both states reopened in tandem on June 1.
Delaware is in some ways the more interesting news. Its casinos reopened with the governor’s blessing — albeit at 30% capacity — as part of the first phase of the state’s reopening plan. Most states with a phased plan have placed casinos in a later phase.
Although Delaware’s COVID-related statistics are not as bad as New York, New Jersey, or Massachusetts, they’re still much worse than most of the country.
The situation was different in Connecticut. Its two casinos, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, reopened in stark defiance of the governor’s orders.
While the tribes hold sovereign decision-making powers, the dispute has exacerbated preexisting tensions between the casinos and the state government. The state has fought back by using road signs to warn potential visitors away from the casinos.
Other recent reopenings include most of the casinos in Iowa and Missouri, which had until the weekend remained entirely closed. West Virginia‘s five casinos opened en masse on Friday.
The most eagerly awaited reopenings this week were those of the Las Vegas resorts, which began this week.
Starting on Monday, the canopy on Fremont Street displayed a countdown until the moment the casinos would receive permission to resume business. The clock hit zero on midnight Friday morning as the canopy display switched over to a fireworks-like light show to mark the moment.
Not every Nevada casino rushed to reopen on the first possible day, but most did. There are over 220 gambling properties in the state, about two-thirds of which are already taking bets again.
Included among them are many of the iconic tourist destinations along the Las Vegas strip, including Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, and Wynn.
Others remain closed for now though, including Aria and Mandalay Bay. A few others have announced reopening dates, including Harrah’s just a day late and Excalibur on June 11.
So far, it doesn’t look as if the resumption of casino gaming has had a dramatic impact on the rate of COVID-19 infections.
Louisiana reopened most of its casinos two weeks ago, for instance, and its infection rate has remained stable. Neighboring Texas, by contrast, lacks casinos but has seen a significant surge in cases during the second phase of its reopening.
Casinos are considered high-risk businesses because they tend to attract large crowds for long periods of time, require extensive interaction between staff and customers, and feature many items and surfaces touched by many people. Those that have reopened are using protocols to mitigate risk, however, such as plexiglass screens and frequent cleaning.
With such extensive measures in place, it may turn out that casinos end up causing fewer infections than some businesses which are inherently lower-risk but take fewer precautions. And since there’s no indication that the reopenings have caused a catastrophe, they’re likely to continue apace.
Here is a partial list of reopenings scheduled for the coming days.
Although reopenings have gone perhaps better than expected, it’s not all good news.
Aside from Las Vegas, there’s probably no city more eager to reopen its casinos than Atlantic City. That’s unlikely to happen this month, however. Murphy said in a radio interview that he’s “trying like heck” to allow a reopening as soon as it would be safe. He cautions, however, that his best guess is that it will only be on Independence Day weekend.
Those casinos employed nearly 30,000 people at the time of the shutdown. Half have been temporarily put out of work and several thousand laid off, a story that has been repeated in casino states around the country.
Boyd Gaming employees were the latest to receive such bad news. In a letter dated May 22, the company warned workers that it may need to cut between 25% and 60% of its staff — though all employees will continue to receive pay until the end of July.
While many employees are simply on furlough for the time being, casinos will be operating at limited capacity for quite a while. That will almost inevitably lead to more layoffs as operators attempt to return to profitability.
US horse racing tracks are slowly beginning to resume operations as well, albeit without audiences.
Several more have recently joined them or will do so shortly, including Meadowlands in New Jersey. Governor Phil Murphy gave the state’s racetracks permission to restart on June 5, though only Meadowlands expects to do so immediately.
Monmouth Park will follow on July 3 and Freehold Raceway in August. Casinos in New Jersey are likewise closed until July, in all likelihood.