Michigan Gaming Board Approves Reopening Guidelines For Detroit Casinos

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The Michigan Gaming and Control Board approved reopening guidelines for its three commercial casinos in Detroit on Monday as it continues to move toward a potential Fourth of July restart date.

The guidelines, which include a limit on casino capacity at 15%, no poker rooms, and limited entrance points with temperature checks, will be put in place after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issues an order to allow the casinos to reopen. Monday marked the first day bars and restaurants across Michigan could operate at 50% capacity, following Whitmer’s executive order last week that eased restrictions.

“In compiling these minimum guidelines, we considered CDC recommendations, Nevada Gaming Board guidelines and information from the National Indian Gaming Commission,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, in a statement. “We required the casinos to propose reopening plans, and we consulted with the casino unions on the guidelines. We believe the guidelines will protect the public when it is safe to reopen the casinos.”

Detroit’s three commercial casinos — the MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino Hotel, and MotorCity Casino Hotel — have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but tribal casinos throughout Michigan, which do not fall under Whitmer’s authority, began reopening in late May.

A lot of social distancing and disinfecting

The MCGB stressed the release “only addresses the initial opening” and “solely sets forth the minimum standards,” while also pointing out the casinos can implement “more stringent” policies. The casinos will be required to provide masks to their employees, and if available, to patrons as well.

Patrons will be required to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth areas and “shall wear the mask in that manner continuously” except when eating or drinking. Additionally, patrons with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher “must be denied access” to the casino or sent to a secondary screening area for further review. Temperature checks must be conducted with non-contact thermometers or thermal scanners.

Common table games will be limited to three players, while roulette and mini-baccarat games can have four. Craps tables may host up to six players and casino staff must disinfect dice for each new shooter. Dealers at those tables must wear masks and/or face shields, and casinos have the option to erect clear plexiglass barriers between players.

For sports betting, which was legalized in Michigan in December and available for less than one week in March, all ticket writers at the three sportsbooks are required to wear at least a mask and gloves, and casinos have the option to place plexiglass barriers between ticket writers and patrons.

The casinos must also have a COVID-19 response and preparedness plan, and publicly available objects touched with frequency including ATMs, door handles, and restroom fixtures must be “disinfected frequently.” Slot machine areas must also be frequently cleaned, and casinos should make automatic hand sanitizer dispensers and disinfecting wipe dispensers available in those areas.

Year-over-year casino revenue drop widens with closures

The MCGB also reported a 51.6% drop year-over-year in revenue from the three Detroit casinos, which have now been closed for two-plus months. The aggregate revenue of $299.2 million for the first five months of the year is well off the 2019 total of $617.9 million.

That has resulted in $25.8 million less in tax revenue for the state compared to 2019, when the first five months generated $50 million. The three casinos have also generated just $35.6 million in tax revenue for the city of Detroit compared to $75.3 million at this time last year. All three casinos reported year-over-year drops of more than 50% in revenue.

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Chris Altruda

Chris Altruda has been a sportswriter with ESPN, The Associated Press, and STATS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest.

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