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In mid-March 2020, within the span of a couple of weeks, virtually all gambling establishments in the US shut down. The reason, as we all know, was to try to spread the stem of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The economic impact was huge, especially in states without legal online casinos. Debates raged over the relative prioritization of public health and the financial well-being of businesses.
By the end of April, a few casinos had begun to reopen. Tribal gaming companies were able to lead the way, exercising their sovereignty. Commercial casinos began to follow suit not long thereafter, starting with those in Deadwood, SD.
A second wave of casino closures is underway, but different in nature. This time, states are acting more independently, not in unison, and the shutdowns are shorter in duration. Here, we are tracking these closures and subsequent reopenings.
LAST UPDATED: Feb. 16, 2021
Here we will be providing information as it comes in. Updates are given in reverse chronological order, with the most recent information first. Initially, these were given at a rate of one or two per week, but may become more infrequent now that the situation is settling down.
The Route 66 Casino in New Mexico has reopened. Meanwhile, ten Oklahoma casinos owned by Cherokee Nation have shut down, although not due to COVID. Rather, their closure is an energy-saving measure as the state deals with a power grid crisis and is only expected to last a few days.
Not much else has changed vis-a-vis casinos opening or closing, however several states have loosened restrictions somewhat.
Most importantly, as of today, Nevada has raised the capacity limit for casinos from 25% to 35%.
Several states, including Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island have pushed back curfews for food and beverage service, from 10 PM to 11 PM. Meanwhile, Montana has lifted its mask mandate and Ohio has allowed its curfew to expire entirely.
Oregon has achieved fully-open status, as its Mole Lake Casino & Lodge resumed operations today. 25 states now have all casinos open.
Maine, Maryland and Massachusetts did not close casinos, but did impose mandatory closing times on all businesses. All three states ended their early closing policies today. Casinos and other businesses can now stay open later.
Ohio made a small step in the same direction. Its Stay at Home Tonight order had imposed a 10 PM curfew and was made indefinite in December. Now, it has amended the order to push the curfew back to 11 PM and give it a fixed expiration date of February 11.
North Dakota also continued to relax its policies, changing the statewide risk level to low/green. Washington changed its policies to make it easier for regions to move through the phases of reopening, but is still a long way off from permitting indoor play at its card rooms.
Little else changed, and with most casinos in the country now back in business, it seems policy-setters are looking more at vaccination and other mitigation strategies than at shutting down non-essential businesses. Updates to this page will likely become more infrequent at this point, and only as needed.
Reopening has continued over the past week, without much movement in the opposite direction.
Illinois in particular is back to being fully open, after having been fully shut down for a time. The last properties to reopen were those in the St. Louis area, which resumed business on January 23. Casinos across the rest of the state had reopened gradually over the preceding five days.
Today, California lifted its regional stay-at-home order. That will allow cardrooms to resume activity, albeit outdoors only. Some counties’ individual policies may contradict that, however, so it remains to be seen exactly which rooms will reopen. When they do, the low temperatures of January and February may impact the popularity of outdoor poker. Meanwhile, all but one of the state’s tribal casinos (Redwood Hotel Casino) is open for business.
The number of casinos doing business in Pennsylvania also increased, but not due to a reopening. Rather, it’s the Live! Hotel and Casino Philadelphia which started taking customers on a reservation-only preview basis on January 19. The full-scale grand opening will follow on February 11.
Wisconsin has moved slightly in the opposite direction. Its casinos are all tribal properties and outside of state jurisdiction, but the arrival of the new strain of COVID-19 has prompted the state to implement a mandatory mask policy in all indoor environments.
There are no longer any states whose casino industries are fully shut down. Illinois was the last of these, but has begun its reopening process.
On Friday, January 15, state Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that Regions 1, 2 and 5 could return to Tier 2 protocols. For casinos, this means operating at 25% capacity, respecting an 11 PM curfew and following all the same regulations as bars and restaurants. Two days later, Gov. Pritzker allowed Regions 2 and 5 to move a step further, to Tier 1. As of this writing, however, the Illinois Gaming Board is still instructing casinos in all three regions to follow Tier 2 protocols.
Four casinos fall in the affected regions:
Jumer’s opened almost immediately, on Saturday. The other three have not yet followed suit, but could do so at any time. The remaining six casinos in the state are in regions still following Tier 3 protocols, meaning that their casinos must remain closed.
Not much has changed elsewhere in the past week. However, North Dakota has allowed its mask mandate to lapse, which may affect policies at its tribal casinos.
With the opening of Lady Luck Nemacolin on Friday, Pennsylvania’s casino industry is fully back in business.
Last week, several states modified their COVID-prevention policies. Some of these changes will affect casinos.
Delaware reduced its capacity restrictions for most businesses from 60% to 30%. The casinos will therefore only be able to host half as many players, and will probably be shutting down more tables and machines as a result.
Illinois is still a long way off from reopening its casinos. However, starting January 15, some regions will move into Phase 2 (of three phases), a step in the right direction.
Iowa extended its emergency policies, including a mask mandate in casinos, to at least February 6.
Pennsylvania’s casinos reopened yesterday, almost all of them anyway. The only one of the 12 still closed is Lady Luck Nemacolin, which will open on Friday, January 8 instead. North Dakota’s Sky Dancer Casino also resumed operations.
California’s tribal casinos are mostly open, though its card rooms remain closed. Havasu Landing reopened on New Year’s Day, leaving only two tribal properties closed in the northern part of the state.
Around the country, many other smaller tribal properties have also resumed business, bringing the total number of casinos closed down to less than 100. Those reopenings included Wyoming’s Little Wind Casino, currently the only one in the state that is open. That leaves Illinois as the only state in the country with all casinos closed.
Fears of a surge in cases due to holiday travel haven’t yet materialized, as the nationwide infection rate has held roughly steady over the past month. Vaccination is also underway nationwide. Colorado counties moved back to the Orange tier on Monday, making a shutdown of its commercial casinos less likely. Minnesota will likewise loosen restrictions tomorrow.
One the other hand, Nevada authorities have advised those who attended the many large New Year’s celebrations in Las Vegas to assume that they’ve been exposed. We may see cases there surge in coming days, though the resistance to another casino shutdown is strong.
Not much has changed during the holiday season, except that Detroit’s commercial casinos reopened: Greektown on Christmas Eve, and MGM Grand and MotorCity the day before. Most of Michigan’s tribal casinos have followed suit, with the two Bay Mills properties the only ones to keep their doors shut.
In Nevada, the Rio All-Suits Hotel and Casino also reopened, on December 22.
Most states are anticipating a further spike in COVID cases due to holiday travel, which could result in additional closures after New Year.
Despite the presumption that Rhode Island would wind up extending its restrictions yet again, Gov. Gina Raimondo allowed them to lapse on December 21. Both of the state’s casinos reopened that same day.
It’s a similar story in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced over the weekend that Detroit casinos would be able to reopen. The casinos, along with movie theaters, bowling alleys and other forms of indoor recreation were theoretically able to resume operations today, though indoor dining will remain prohibited until mid-January. However, they seemed unprepared for the news, and two of the three – MGM Grand and MotorCity – said they’d be reopening on Wednesday instead. The third, Greektown, has not yet announced a date.
Arizona seems to be on track for a second shutdown shortly into the New Year, based on the guidelines of its own Department of Health Services. The Governor, however, says that this isn’t on the table. The state’s casinos are all tribal in any case, and would be able to set their own policy.
In Connecticut, Mohegan Sun has allowed officials to set up a drive-through COVID testing location on its property.
All of Pennsylvania’s casinos closed over the weekend. The order from Gov. Tom Wolf came on December 10, and went into effect two days later. Rivers Philadelphia was already closed as of November 20, but a dozen other properties had been open for business until now. The closure will last until at least 8 AM on Monday, January 4.
On December 11, Illinois extended its Tier 3 Mitigation Order for another 30 days. This means its ten casinos will remain closed until mid-January at the earliest. Rhode Island also extended its emergency declaration and casino closure for one additional week, until at least December 21.
Maryland casinos are still open, but had their capacity reduced to 25% today, until at least mid-January. Indoor dining has also ceased for the time being. Nevada has had a similar capacity restriction in effect since November 24, and yesterday extended that until January 15 at the earliest.
Tribal casinos, meanwhile, have continued to do a bit more of a dance than their commercial counterparts. Six in Michigan reopened last week, while others elsewhere shut down. The latter include Havasu Landing in California, Ute Mountain in Colorado, and the three Arizona properties owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
The first few doses of early COVID-19 vaccines have now been administered in the US. It will take a long time before enough people have received it for herd immunity to kick in, but we may see the spread begin to slow within a few months.
Today was initially supposed to be the day that the three commercial casinos in Detroit could reopen. Given the continued spread of the virus, however, this never seemed very likely. Sure enough, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on December 7 that the partial shutdown order would be extended until at least December 20. Given that the holiday season presents additional risks of its own due to family gatherings, we can probably expect that this will be extended again until after New Year.
Maine likewise extended the duration of its restrictions. As far as its casinos go, this means their 9 PM curfew will continue to apply until at least January 3. Ohio, too, has extended its curfews indefinitely. These were originally set to expire December 10, and don’t mandate compliance from casinos though many have voluntarily limited their hours in response.
In California, two additional regions – San Joaquin and Southern California – his the threshold for regional stay-at-home orders over the weekend. Card rooms in these regions are now closed, even for outdoor play.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that a total shutdown was looking likely due to strain on the hospitals. Indoor dining, currently limited to 25% capacity, would be the first sector to get shut down entirely. The story in Pennsylvania is similar.
North Carolina may announce some new restrictions of its own later today, though its casinos are tribal properties and won’t be affected directly.
Starting tomorrow, California will implement a regional stay-at-home order. It divides the state into five regions, each consisting of between 11 and 13 counties. Four of the five are expected to meet the threshold for additional restrictions within a matter of days, the exception being the Bay Area. Card rooms and satellite wagering facilities are on the list of businesses that will be forced to close in affected regions.
Delaware has also announced a stay-at-home advisory from December 14 to January 11. This is merely a strong recommendation and doesn’t carry legal penalties, though it is accompanied by a state-wide mask mandate and prohibition on specific activities like winter sports competitions. The state’s racetrack-casinos haven’t indicated whether this impacts their plans.
Michigan is approaching the end of its original three-week shutdown period. The initial order will expire next Tuesday, but the governor and health authorities are still debating whether to renew it or let it lapse.
Missouri casinos remain open, but the state is coming under pressure from the White House Task Force to take some sort of action, as the state’s infection rates are unacceptably high.
New Mexico actually saw one tribal casino reopen on December 1, the Santa Claran Hotel Casino, which had been shut down since November 17. Conversely, Wind River and Little Wind in Wyoming were expected to reopen on December 1 after shutting down in November, but have extended their closure until further notice.
Furthermore, the Chinook Winds Casino Resort in Oregon shut down for two weeks of its own accord, starting December 2.
The good news is that experimental vaccines are on the way to most states, expected to arrive mid-month. Depending on their efficacy, distribution and people’s willingness to receive them, these might slow things down enough to avert the need for more widespread shutdowns.
The two Twin River casinos in Rhode Island shut down today, as scheduled. This will last at least two weeks. However, this is also the same time period over which we’ll see the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings emerge, which makes it unlikely that the number of cases will drop. With Christmas then approaching shortly after, the smart money is on the closure being extended until after New Year.
In California, Los Angeles County card rooms, including Commerce Casino and Bicycle (aka “The Bike”) also shut down today. They had until now been open for outdoor play only.
On Wednesday, Louisiana will re-enter phase 2 and reduce the capacity of its casinos from 75% to 50%. This is still a higher limit than many states; 33% and 25% capacity limits are commonplace at the moment.
Meanwhile, Illinois is already seeing the benefits of its stricter approach. Chicago is one of the few US cities where COVID rates are on the decline. This may lead to other states following its lead in closing casinos, among other measures.
No additional closures have been announced for this week as yet. However, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice warned that some new restrictions could be coming on Wednesday, making that a state to watch.
VitalVegas, which reports on casino industry gossip, also tweeted a rumor that a three-week shutdown is being discussed internally at Caesars:
Rumor out of Caesars Ent. via newly-furloughed employee informed of “three-week closure.” Hopefully, this refers to midweek hotel closures, but sounds more ominous.
— Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) November 30, 2020
Little happened during the week, as legislators were reluctant to impose additional restrictions so close to Thanksgiving. Pennsylvania was a small but significant exception, in that it ordered bars to close at 5 PM for one night only on Wednesday, anticipating a pre-Thanksgiving drinking binge that could have spread the disease.
Unfortunately, holiday travel and family gatherings will almost certainly lead to an even sharper rise in cases over the next one to two weeks. That could mean the announcement of new restrictions in the near future in some states.
Rhode Island will enter its new phase of precautions on Monday, which will last for at least two weeks. These include the shutdown of its two casinos.
Maryland is looking like a prime contender to join the second wave of shutdowns. Its casinos are facing criticism for a lack of transparency around many dozens of employees testing positive for the disease since October.
The Kansas Lottery has suspended in-person claims for large prizes, asking holders of winning tickets to submit their claims by mail instead. This is significant in that the lottery is also the operator of the state’s commercial casinos, so any precautions it takes at its headquarters may foreshadow measures taken at the casinos.
Nevada casinos haven’t yet been forced to shut down, but they’ve been subjected to a new 25% capacity order. The limit was previously 50%.
Some are also taking voluntary additional steps, as much to save money as to stem the spread of COVID-19. Mandalay Bay and The Mirage have elected to limit their hotel operations to Friday, Saturday and Sunday, though their casino floors remain open throughout the week for now. Others are reducing their hours of operation on weekdays but remaining open in the evenings.
Detroit commercial casinos have now been closed for a week. It’s estimated that they will lose at least $67 million even if they only remain closed for three weeks as originally planned. Relatedly, Mississippi’s Island View Casino is suing its insurer for refusing to cover losses related to the first shutdown.
Meanwhile, north of the border, most casinos in Ontario have shut down. At the moment, only the Toronto and Peel regions are under lockdown, but some of the province’s other casinos have closed voluntarily.
Illinois executed its casino shutdown today, as the state moves back into Tier 3 restrictions. Some other forms of indoor recreation such as theaters and museums have also been forced to cease operations. This will last a minimum of 14 days, after which the state will reevaluate. Casinos may be permitted to reopen after that time if cases and hospitalization rates decrease, but this is unlikely.
Likewise, Rivers Casino Philadelphia shut down on orders from the city. It will stay closed until at least January 1.
Minnesota also has new restrictions coming into effect at midnight tonight. These won’t affect the state’s many tribal casinos, unless they opt to comply voluntarily. However, it will shut down the state’s two racetracks and their attached card rooms.
Meanwhile, Rhode Island became the next state to announce casino shutdowns. Its two casinos, owned by Ballys (formerly Twin River) will be forced to shutter on November 30, along with colleges and universities, offices, bars, gyms and various other nonessential indoor businesses.
As with Illinois, this will be a two-week shutdown. If the virus is continuing to spread unchecked after that time, Gov. Gina Raimondo has warned residents to prepare for a total, full-state lockdown.
Of course, the biggest question mark is Nevada. The jury’s still out there. Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that residents should prepare for an announcement of new measures, but that announcement hasn’t yet come.
The second wave of casino closures is officially underway, as the MGM Grand, Greektown Casino and Motor City Casino in Detroit all closed their doors. The order to do so went out on Sunday, November 14, coming straight from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The closure order will last a minimum of three weeks. Based on the trajectory of the disease in Michigan and nationwide, it is likely to last longer, as the hope of reining in the spread of the disease in that short span of time seems slim to nonexistent.
There are roughly two dozen other casinos in the state, but they are tribal properties and therefore not subject to the Governor’s orders. Six of these in the state’s Upper Peninsula (or panhandle) have followed suit of their own accord. Five others remain open for now, along with all tribal casinos on the Lower Peninsula.
Yesterday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the state’s Department of Public Health announced that it would be moving into Tier 3 restrictions. That means that starting Friday, its casinos will also close. Also on Friday, Rivers Philadelphia will shut down on orders from the city, though other Pennsylvania casinos will remain open for now.
In Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment came close to ordering the outright closure of Cripple Creek casinos, but changed its mind at the last moment. However, all commercial casinos in the state have been ordered to cease offering table games, rendering them slots-only. They’ve also had their capacities reduced to 100, and cannot sell alcohol after midnight.
The information on this page combines data from the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) COVID-19 Casino Tracker with summarized news stories from around the web. AGA’s data includes Class II tribal properties (i.e. bingo halls) but excludes some other types of gambling establishments like off-track betting parlors and California’s card rooms.
The country never quite achieved 100% reopening of casinos. By early September, most commercial casinos had reopened, and the rate at which tribal casinos were doing so had slowed to a crawl.
For those most part, those remaining closed were small rest stop style casinos, bingo halls and the like.
The first indicator of a second, potentially nationwide shutdown was the closure of Detroit’s three commercial casinos on November 18. Other states are now looking at making a similar decision, while others have introduced new restrictions.
Here’s what the second shutdown looks like at the moment, by the numbers.
Here’s what the national picture looks like as of February 16.
Want to know how things are going in your state? Scroll down or click your state in the list below for a synopsis of all the news we’ve found. This includes special restrictions on casino activity, rumors, etc. as well as outright shutdowns.
Know something we don’t? Please contact us on Twitter to let us know, and we’ll add it to the list.
Jump to: Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming
Alabama is fully open at the moment. Wind Creek, its tribal gaming operator, resumed 24-hour operations in October and has not given any indication that it will reverse course.
On December 3, Governor Kay Ivey affirmed that she has no plans to shut down any businesses, and tribal casinos would be beyond her jurisdiction in any event.
Alaska has only two small tribal bingo halls, both of which are currently open.
Arizona has only tribal casinos, which will make their own decisions independent of the state. At the moment, most are open. The first exceptions are Casino Del Sol, Casino of the Sun and Del Sol Marketplace. All three are owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and closed down simultaneously on December 7.
Meanwhile, the state’s COVID-19 modeling team have sent state leaders a letter urging a three-week shutdown and/or a statewide curfew. There’s no word whether state authorities intend to take the advice, but if they did, it would have at least an indirect impact on the casinos.
If current trends were to continue, and the state were to follow its own guidelines, a second shutdown would be coming shortly after New Year. However, Gov. Doug Ducey has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to do this.
The two commercial casinos in Arkansas were among the first to reopen back in May, remain open, and show no indication of closing.
California has a mixture of tribal casinos and “card rooms,” which aren’t technically casinos but serve the same purpose. All but one tribal casino is open. The lone exception is Redwood Hotel Casino in Klamath, which closed in March and never reopened.
Card rooms are a different story. Most of the state is in the “purple” tier, which means nonessential indoor businesses are closed, including card rooms. Many card rooms have prepared for this by setting up outdoor operations.
On November 30, however, Los Angeles County entered a new phase of restrictions. Among other things, these prohibit even outdoor play at card rooms in the county, which includes such iconic names as Commerce, Bicycle, Hollywood Park and The Gardens.
That policy later extended to most of the state. As of December 21, 55 of 58 counties are in the purple tier and 4 of 5 regions (all but Northern California) were under stay at home orders, which mandate a halt to even outdoor play at card rooms.
The regional stay-at-home order was lifted on January 25, but it remains to be determined which card rooms will open when. Some may still be impacted by county-level restrictions.
Colorado’s commercial casinos are concentrated in three small towns designated for that purpose. All are open, for now.
Cripple Creek has been harder hit by COVID-19, and although its casinos were allowed to reopen, they could only offer slots. It may soon be forced to shut down again, but has so far avoided that fate.
Black Hawk and Central City, located close to one another just west of Denver, enjoyed slightly more relaxed restrictions for a time, and were able to offer table games as well. As of November 11, however, they’ve lost that privilege and are also slots-only.
There are additionally two tribal casinos in the southwest corner of the state, which opened in August and September. One of these, Ute Mountain, closed again on December 7, while the other, Sky Ute, remains open for now.
On January 4, Colorado counties that had been in the Red tier have moved back to Orange, meaning some limited indoor dining is possible again, and a shutdown of commercial casinos is less likely.
Connecticut has only two tribal casinos, but they’re major ones: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. Their decision to reopen on June 1 caused a ruckus, as Gov. Ned Lamont was strongly opposed and attempted to stop them, though he had no power to do so. We may see a repeat of that drama if the state asks them to shut down again and they refuse to do so, but for now they remain open, albeit at 25% capacity.
Starting in December, however, Foxwoods began closing some gaming areas and hotels, and furloughing some staff. Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun has allowed officials to set up a drive-through COVID testing location on its property.
Delaware’s three racetrack casinos are operated by the state lottery. All three opened in June and have remained open, with no word of a potential second closure as yet. Even if they do, state residents do have access to online casino gambling, also operating through the lottery.
Photos of a packed food court at a Delaware mall on Black Friday sparked outrage, and have led the state to begin tightening regulations. A stay-at-home advisory will be in place from December 14 to January 11, though this won’t specifically force any businesses to close. On January 8, capacity limits for all businesses between 5000 and 100,000 square feet (which includes the state’s casinos) were reduced to 30%.
Florida has been one of the states most resistant to economic shutdowns or, indeed, to most anti-COVID measures. The Seminole tribal casinos were among the few nationwide to resist the initial shutdown, though they complied eventually. Despite that attitude, some casinos in the state have already gone through a second shutdown through July and August.
Even these are now open again, and Gov. DeSantis has promised his constituents that there will be no second shutdown, of casinos or anything else. The White House COVID Task Force has pressed the state for tighter restrictions, but DeSantis is unswayed.
Georgia has no casinos.
Hawaii has no casinos.
Idaho has tribal gaming only. At the moment, all tribal casinos in the state are open and have not announced any plans to close again. The only gaming establishment that’s closed is the small collection of slot machines at Benewah Family Foods.
As of December 2, Ada, Elmore Valley and Boise counties are looking at increasing restrictions, including an expanded mask mandate, prohibition on most sporting events, and new rules for bars and restaurants.
Illinois casinos are all closed as of November 20 on the orders of Gov. J.B. Pritzker. He had already imposed additional restrictions on them prior to this, but they proved insufficient. He says the state could be headed for stay at home orders once again, too.
Illinois has no tribal casinos, so once the commercial casinos have shut down, that will be it for land-based gaming in the state. The casinos will stay closed until mid-January at the earliest, with the order having already been extended once in mid-December.
The good news is that Chicago is one of the few cities in which COVID rates have been dropping. This lends credit to Gov. Pritzker’s approach and may lead to other states following Illinois’s lead, even as it perhaps finds the opportunity to relax restrictions slightly.
As of January 15, three regions (1, 2 and 5) have moved out of Tier 3. Regions 2 and 5 are now in Tier 1, while Region 1 remains in Tier 2. Four of the state’s ten casinos fall in these regions and can now reopen at 25% capacity and with an 11 PM curfew. The first to do so was Jumer’s Hotel & Casino, on January 18, and the rest followed suit over the coming days. By January 23, the state was fully open once more.
Indiana’s casino industry consists mostly of commercial establishments, with Four Winds South Bend as the sole tribal property. So far, the state has said that all casinos can remain open. Starting November 15, however, it did introduce new restrictions, making masks mandatory for all guests and staff, and forbidding all food and drink on the casino floor.
Iowa has a mixture of commercial and tribal casinos, all of which are open at the moment. However, as of November 17, the state has a limited mandatory mask policy anywhere indoors where social distancing is impossible. Half the casinos in the state were already requiring masks, and now the other half will have to follow suit. In January, this policy was extended until at least February 6.
A bar owner has filed a class action lawsuit against the state for its restrictions. If that manages to get any traction, it could make the state reluctant to tighten things any further.
Kansas has a mixture of tribal casinos, and commercial casinos operated by the state lottery. All are open at the moment, with no word of impending closure yet. However, the lottery has ceased accepting in-person ticket claims at its headquarters, instructing winners to submit their claims by mail.
Kentucky has no casinos per se. It does have racetracks and race betting parlors, which are all open for now. These offer slots-like historical horse racing terminals, making them almost as good as real casinos. However, this is the subject of an ongoing legal battle and may lead to disruptions even if COVID-19 doesn’t force the venues to close first. The state also has instant internet lottery games available as a reasonable and pandemic-proof alternative to casino gambling.
On November 20, the state implemented certain measures like restricting gym capacities and limiting bars and restaurants to takeout or outdoor service only. Most of these were subsequently lifted on December 13. To date, racetracks and off-track betting parlors remain open, and Gov. Andy Beshear has said he’s resistant to the idea of forcing any businesses to close outright.
Beshear expressed a similar sentiment again on December 7. He stated in a press conference that he still intends to return to a more lax set of restrictions next week and doesn’t foresee closing bars and restaurants.
Louisiana has a mixture of commercial and tribal casinos, most of which are open. It is one of the states to have seen a casino – DiamondJacks – close permanently as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lake Charles remains closed, not due to COVID, but rather because of damage it sustained during Hurricane Laura.
There has been no word as yet whether the state plans on forcing commercial casinos to close again. However, on December 2, the state re-entered a “modified phase 2,” which includes decreasing the capacity at certain businesses, including casinos, from 75% to 50%. This is still a greater capacity limit than many states allow.
At the moment, the local casino industry seems more concerned about the loss of revenue due to hurricane season than the virus.
Maine has two commercial casinos, which are currently open, with no indication of whether they will close again. However, they’ve seen among the biggest drops in revenue of any US gambling properties, which could call into question the profitability of remaining open if the situation continues to worsen.
Like most entertainment venues, Maine’s casinos were subject to a 9 PM curfew for much of the winter. This policy ended on February 1.
Maryland has a half dozen commercial casinos and no tribal properties. At the moment, all are open and there has been no word about closing casinos specifically. However, asked recently about whether the state might have to undergo a shutdown this winter, Gov. Larry Hogan responded, “absolutely we might.”
That possibility is looming larger as of November 24, when it came to light that several dozen casino employees have tested positive since early October. Authorities haven’t made a shutdown announcement yet, but have called for greater transparency from the casinos when it comes to reporting cases.
On December 14, the state imposed new restrictions. These include a reduction of casino capacities to 25% and an end to indoor dining. On the other hand, February 1 saw the end to a statewide mandatory 10 PM closing time for businesses.
Massachusetts has three commercial casinos that are all currently open. As of November 6, however, they’d been forced to close each night at 9:30 PM, along with all other businesses classified as “entertainment venues.” The Encore Boston Harbor has also closed the hotel portion of its property of its own accord.
It seems that this policy was enough to avert the need to close casinos entirely. The mandatory closing time was lifted on January 25. If Massachusetts casinos had closed, there are no alternatives in the state, as it lacks both tribal casinos and online gambling.
As has been the case in some other states, Massachusetts officials have accused casinos of being less than transparent when it comes to cases of infection among their employees.
Facing pressure from doctors who say the current response level is inadequate, on December 7, Gov. Charlie Baker hinted that additional restrictions might be coming soon. He did not elaborate on what those might be, but did move the state back to Phase 3, Step 1 of its reopening plan. This included a reduction in casino capacities, which was further reduced on December 26 to just 25%.
Michigan was the first state to initiate the second wave of casino closures, shutting down the three commercial casinos in Detroit on November 18. The state claims that this will only last for three weeks, but if COVID-19 rates keep increasing despite efforts at mitigation, they could easily be forced to remain closed much longer.
Fortunately, infection numbers have been trending downwards since the shutdown. However, the governor and her health officials haven’t yet decided whether this means the restrictions can be loosened. The original order was set to expire Tuesday, December 8. Just before it did, however, the precautions were extended an additional 12 days.
Somewhat surprisingly, the state hasn’t extended the closure any further. As of December 21, the casinos are allowed to reopen. Two did so on December 23, while the last, Greektown, opened on Christmas Eve.
The state also has roughly two dozen tribal properties. For a time, about half of those in the Upper Peninsula had followed suit and were closed. All but Bay Mills Resort & Casino have since reopened, most on December 9.
Fortunately, Michigan is close to launching online gambling. This should come soon, though the date was just pushed back yet again, from December to early January. When it does arrive, it will provide residents with a pandemic-proof option for casino gaming, as well as poker and sports betting. In the meantime, the state does have an iLottery with casino-like instant games.
Minnesota has no commercial casinos, but a huge number of tribal gaming properties. All of these are open for the time being. However, many are already struggling due to the pandemic and may wind up shutting down temporarily due to lack of business even though the state can’t force them to do so.
The state also has a pair of card rooms located at its racetracks, Canterbury Park and Running Aces. These closed on November 20 at midnight, due to new restrictions imposed by the state. Those restrictions were originally set to expire on December 16, but were extended before eventually being loosened on January 6.
Mississippi has a huge number of riverboat casinos, plus three tribal properties. At the moment, the state is fully open and isn’t looking to change that. The governor, Tate Reeves, has claimed that a second shutdown would be unnecessary, and has gone so far as to say that it would not comply even with a federally mandated national shutdown.
Indeed, the relatively simple measure of reinstating a mask mandate is proving contentious enough that the state is taking things county-by-county. However, the state has now run out of ICU beds entirely and the mayor of Wiggins has died of the disease, so pressure will continue to mount until the situation changes one way or another.
Missouri has commercial casinos only, and could shut down completely if Gov. Mike Parson ordered it. The casinos stayed closed for two and a half months the first time around. However, Gov. Parson was resistant to the idea of reimposing restrictions during a smaller spike in cases over the summer, so it’s unclear what his attitude will be now.
For the time being, Missouri casinos remain open. The White House Task Force, however, has begun pressuring the state to take action, declaring its current precautions inadequate.
Montana has tribal casinos only. About half belong to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, while the other half are independently operated by smaller tribes. Two of the latter have remained closed since March. The rest are open, but without a single state or tribal authority governing them, may make independent decisions to close at any point.
The state also has roughly 150 small card rooms. Most of these have a minimal online presence, making it difficult to check their status individually. However, new restrictions imposed by Gov. Steve Bullock will at minimum restrict their capacity. From November 20 to February 12, masks were mandatory statewide, including at casinos. However, that has now been lifted.
Nebraska has no commercial casinos, but does have six tribal casinos, owned by three different tribes. Three have closed while the rest are open for now and not subject to state orders, but could decide to close of their own accord. Gov. Ricketts has said that the state is approaching the need for new restrictions, such as further reducing the maximum size of social gatherings.
Nevada is, of course, the casino capital of the US and arguably of the world. There are a great many commercial casinos in the state, and four tribal ones. Most are open, though some have stayed closed for now, others are taking the opportunity to carry out renovations, and a few have closed permanently.
As of February 16, all are limited to 35% capacity. That limit has fluctuated between 50% and 25% since it was first imposed. This and other policies have managed to slow the acceleration of the disease, but the infection rate hasn’t yet started to come back down.
The stakes are very high in Nevada. On the one hand, the size and number of the casinos makes the risk of super-spreader events very real. Meanwhile, the reopening hasn’t gone all that well. Some casinos have independently decided to keep their hotels open only certain days of the week due to lack of business, while what visitors have been coming have included a higher proportion than normal of unsavory characters, leading to an outbreak of violence on the Strip.
On the other hand, the state is so reliant on its entertainment and gambling industries that the thought of a second shutdown is extremely painful. As yet, it remains up in the air what will happen. The state hit yet another single-day infection record on December 6. There were then many large gatherings for New Year’s, and authorities have advised everyone who attended them to assume they’ve been exposed.
New Hampshire’s casinos are charitable establishments, neither commercial nor tribal. That being the case, they aren’t included in the AGA’s casino shutdown stats. At the moment, they’re open.
There’s no indication that the state is planning a second shutdown at this time and on December 3, Gov. Chris Sununu said that a shutdown is unlikely. However, his stance on the disease has hardened since the death of the Speaker of the House Dick Hinch in December.
New Jersey’s casinos are limited to commercial establishments in Atlantic City. These are open, but under severe restrictions on capacity, food and drink service, hygiene protocols, and so forth. Most recently, new restrictions on indoor dining have caused the Borgata to lay off many employees and cut hours for others.
Worse may be yet to come. New Jersey was quick to shut down its casinos in the spring and among the last states to reopen. Now, Gov. Phil Murphy has said that if the current trend of infections continues, a second full shutdown is probably coming.
On November 30, Gov. Murphy imposed new restrictions, including a ban on indoor sports. However, he also said that the state is in much better shape than in the spring, and doesn’t see another lockdown as imminent. On December 3, he warned this could change if there is a spike due to Thankgiving, but that hasn’t yet materialized, and on December 7, he insisted that a ban on indoor dining is “not right now on the table.” He has also discouraged all non-essential travel in and out of the state.
The good news, of course is that there’s no shortage of NJ online casinos or NJ online poker sites. It has the best developed online gambling market in the US, in fact, and its iGaming sites have been doing booming business since their retail competition first shut down.
New Mexico is the only state not to have given its commercial casinos permission to reopen. The five racinos have been closed since March, and are still pushing for permission to reopen. Since they haven’t received it yet, they’re unlikely to at this point, until either vaccines arrive, the pandemic runs its course, or warmer weather arrives and causes the infection trajectory to abate once more.
The state also has numerous tribal casinos, most of which have also remained closed, or opened at one time but have closed again. The exceptions are Inn of the Mountain Gods, Taos Mountain, Santa Claran Hotel Casino and Route 66. This last only reopened on February 16.
On December 2, the state shifted to a county-by-county system with three tiers. However, of its 33 counties only one was not in the “red,” or most restrictive tier to begin with.
On December 5, it was forced to allow its hospital to move to “crisis standards of care,” meaning the ability to ration care and prioritize patients by their chances of survival. Despite this grim situation, the state is facing too much pushback on existing protocols to tighten them any further. The sheriff of Bernarillo County – the state’s most populous – has said he isn’t enforcing the state’s stay-at-home order in any event, as he considers it “unconstitutional.”
New York has a mixture of casinos, all of them open at the moment. There are three racinos in and around New York City, plus two other commercial properties elsewhere in the state. There are furthermore a cluster of tribal casinos upstate.
The commercial casinos were closed for more than five months, only receiving permission to reopen in September. Now, they’re staring down the barrel of a second shutdown. Starting November 13, they were required to close each night at 10 PM. On February 12 this was changed to 11 PM.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been warning of the potential need to shut down parts of the economy again. On December 7, he warned that hospital strain was reaching the point that another total shutdown might become necessary.
With casinos being both high risk and non-essential, and three of the five commercial properties located in New York City, the odds are very high that retail gambling will be on the list of businesses being sacrificed for the public good. For now, they remain open, but those in New York City will be affected by a moratorium on indoor dining which began on December 14.
If there is a second shutdown, it may not be statewide. New York has taken a more targeted approach this time around, establishing “micro-cluster focus zones” in need of special attention. It has also said that small gathering spread is the number one danger at the moment, and not businesses.
North Carolina has only three tribal casinos. Harrah’s Cherokee remains open despite having been at the center of a COVID outbreak in July, as does its sister casino Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River. The third is a bingo hall attached to Harrah’s Cherokee, which has been closed since March. Caesars, which operates the two Harrah’s properties on behalf of the Cherokee tribe, has not announced any plans to close the casinos again.
As of December 11, state residents are subject to a 10 PM curfew, which will indirectly affect the casinos.
North Dakota has only tribal casinos, so the decision to stay open or close is not up to the state.
Most of the casinos are now open. The exceptions are two casinos in the northern part of the state owned by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. These have remained closed since March. Part of the reason may be their proximity to the Canadian border, as restrictions on international travel will have killed any cross-border business they once received.
Two other casinos owned by the same tribe – Sky Dancer Casino and La Dots Lounge – had opened, but closed again in November. These reopened a second time on January 4.
On January 15, the state relaxed some policies, including its mask mandate, which it allowed to expire. This may have some indirect impact on the policies the casinos set of their own accord.
Ohio has only commercial casinos, which means it could go to full shutdown at any moment based on an order from the governor. For now, they remain open.
However, as of November 19, the state has asked citizens to respect a 10 PM curfew. This has led at least some of the casinos to adjust their hours of operation accordingly. Originally set to expire December 10, that order was extended over the holidays. The curfew was later changed to 11 PM, and given an expiration date of February 11. That date has now passed without extension, so many Ohio casinos are back to round-the-clock operations, while others still close down for a few hours in the very early morning for deep cleaning.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine has minced words a bit on the issue of a second shutdown. He’s said that won’t happen, per se, but that he does plan on a slowdown of sorts. It’s not clear what this means for casinos specifically, but the plan seems to be to focus on changing individual behavior rather than imposing rules on businesses. Even so, he is facing calls for impeachment from members of his own party for going “too far” with what restrictions he has implemented.
As of December 4, eight Ohio counties are now in the “purple” or most serious tier for COVID, but this currently includes no additional restrictions beyond those for the “red” tier.
Oklahoma has just two commercial racinos, one of which opened in late June, the other in early September. Though Oklahoma has had one of the sharpest spikes in infection rates this fall, there’s been no talk from its government about a second shutdown. For now, the racinos will remain open.
Aside from the racinos, there are dozens of small tribal casinos scattered throughout the state. All but six are open at the moment. Their decisions are made independently, so some may choose to close again of their own accord, even absent instructions from the state.
Oregon is already entering a partial second shutdown. It took effect on November 18 and will last at least two weeks, probably longer. Restaurants will be take-out only, retail businesses have their capacity limited, and parks and playgrounds are closed.
The state’s casinos are all tribal businesses, so won’t be affected directly. At the moment, all but two of them are still open. The lone exception is Kla-Mo-Ya Casino, which closed at the same time the new restrictions took effect. The Chinook Winds Casino Resort shut down on December 2 due to rising COVID cases in the area, and will tentatively remain closed for two weeks.
However, the restrictions will likely affect individual citizens’ behavior as well. If people take the instructions to heart and end up staying at home more, the casinos may decide on a temporary shutdown of their own accord. On the other hand, backlash is already underway, with one mayor openly urging local citizens and businesses to ignore the governor’s orders and treat their city as if it were one tier lower than it actually is.
Rivers Casino was ordered to shut down by the city of Philadelphia, effective November 20. The order will last until January 1 at the earliest, and was only the second example of a state ordering a renewed shutdown of commercial casinos.
In mid-October, state officials said they weren’t considering a new statewide shutdown. The impending election may have had something to do with that, however, as remaining 12 casinos in the state were all ordered to suspend operations on December 12. The reopening date was set for January 4, and somewhat surprisingly, was not extended. Eleven casinos reopened that day, with the last, Lady Luck Nemacolin, electing to stay closed until Friday, January 8. On January 19, the state even added a new casino to its roster, as Live! Philadelphia began serving guests on a reservations-only basis, with a full opening to follow in February.
Fortunately, the Pennsylvania online casino industry is now thriving to nearly as great an extent as New Jersey’s. No matter what happens, then, Pennsylvanians won’t be left without the option to play.
Rhode Island has just two casinos, both operated by the state lottery in partnership with the company formerly known as Twin River, which has just this month taken over the Bally’s brand and changed its own name to match.
Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on November 19 that she would be imposing new restrictions. These came into effect on November 30, shutting down both casinos among other forms of indoor entertainment.
Though she initially said she’s hesitant to move backwards on the state’s reopening plans, she has since warned that a full-state lockdown could be coming. The new restrictions were set to last for a minimum of two weeks, later extended to three. Despite expectations that further extensions would be coming, however, she allowed the order to lapse on December 21, and both casinos reopened.
Whatever happens next, the good news for residents is that the state now has an iLottery with slot-machine like instant games. While not quite as good as a full featured online casino, that’s something to help pass the time if the casinos do have to close again.
South Carolina has no casinos.
South Dakota’s commercial casinos are constrained to the tiny town of Deadwood. These were the first commercial casinos in the country to receive permission to reopen, on May 7. All but two are now open.
In October, Gov. Kristi Noem declared lockdowns ‘useless,’ making it unlikely that Deadwood will be forced to shut down again. There are also a few tribal casinos along the southern and eastern borders of the state. The former, adjoining Nebraska, have remained closed since March, while those to the east, facing Minnesota, have reopened.
Tennessee has no casinos.
Texas has no commercial casinos and just two tribal properties. These remained closed longer than most tribal casinos in other states, but have been open since the beginning of the fall. Given how recently they opened, they will likely be reluctant to close again, and the state cannot force them to do so.
Utah has no casinos.
Vermont has no casinos.
Virginia has no casinos, though its citizens authorized the construction of four casinos as a ballot question during this month’s election. Their construction will take long enough that COVID may no longer be an issue by the time they’re completed.
Washington has no commercial casinos, so the choice is not in the state’s hands. It has many tribal casinos, most of which remain open at this juncture. There are, however, two that never reopened to begin with: Two Rivers and Last Chance.
The state is beginning a second shutdown, however, which will impact the casinos indirectly. Though not obliged to, many may end up shutting down of their own accord.
Washington further more has a number of card rooms. Indoor activities at these establishments have been prohibited since July 30, though outdoor tables were permitted. New restrictions as of November 16 will have the effect of limiting table capacities, and cold weather may make outdoor poker a less popular idea in any case.
As of January 28, Washington modified its guidelines to allow regions to move more quickly through the stages of reopening. However, only two regions are now in Phase 2, while the rest of the state is in Phase 1, and a region will have to reach Phase 4 before indoor play at card rooms becomes permitted.
West Virginia has just five commercial casinos and no tribal gambling operations. All five are open at the moment.
It’s a conservative state, and one of those five casinos — the Greenbrier — is owned by Gov. Jim Justice and his family. Both those factors bode well for the casinos’ chances of remaining open, and Gov. Justice has said he hopes to avoid a second shutdown. His Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, is even more resistant to anti-COVID measures and the two clashed over it on November 19.
On the other hand, there are now two online casinos in WV, which wasn’t true back in the spring. If the casinos did have to close their doors again, the consequences to the state’s revenues wouldn’t be quite as dire as they were the first time around.
Wisconsin has a large number of tribal casinos but no commercial gambling. This leaves the decision out of the state’s hands. Its collection of casinos is partially open at the moment, and could swing either way as there are eleven different tribes operating the casinos, each making its decisions independently.
Six of those casinos never reopened in the first place. Another, St. Croix Casino Turtle Lake, had been open but closed again on November 11, with the inital plan to resume business on December 10, later pushed back to December 15. The other 20 casinos are open now, but taking things day by day.
Wyoming has only four tribal casinos and no commercial establishments. The tribes aren’t subject to state orders, but even so, Wyoming became the first state to see all casinos close down again.
Two of the four casinos never reopened to begin with, and the other two, owned by Wind River, shut down temporarily on November 9. They planned to reopen December 1, announced on Facebook the day before that the closure would be extended until further notice. One, Little Wind, ultimately reopened on December 30, though the other three remain closed.