Coronavirus outbreak leads to casino closures across the US

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak has prompted the US casinos to be closed, either voluntarily or by law. The regulatory bodies have ordered a two-week closure for all the casinos in their states. Among the bodies to give the directive include the; Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Indiana Gaming Commission, Michigan Gaming Board, and Illinois Gaming Board.

Mass gatherings prohibited

In Ohio and Maryland, all ‘mass gatherings’ of at least 100 people have been banned by Gov. Mike DeWine (Ohio), Gov. Larry Hogan (Maryland) and the health directors of the respective states.

On Monday, 16th March 2020, through a conference call, Governors Ned Lamont (Connecticut, Phil Murphy (New Jersey), and Andrew M. Cuomo (New York) announced that from 8 pm ET, all casinos in their respective states would be closed all in a bid to also to ban gatherings of at least 50 people.

In his statement, Gov. Lamont said that the directives were among those taken to slow the virus spread while at the same time avoid overwhelming the healthcare system and protect the most vulnerable in the community. He also stated that the regional approach they had taken was the best move since the virus ‘does not know borders.’

Indiana has offered online sportsbooks with no online casinos, Illinois has only offered lottery for online gamblers, Massachusetts and Michigan have no online gambling while Ohio has not regulated the sector.

‘Health of guests and employees is of paramount concern’

Jay Snowden, president and CEO of Penn National Gaming, said that although the casinos had taken measures to contain the spread, he understood why they needed to be closed. He noted that the health and well-being of the staff and guests was of paramount concern.

In his statement, the president said that he was looking forward to reopening the doors sooner and that they would take the opportunity to prepare the casinos with deep cleaning efforts.

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday, 17th March 2020, closed all nonessential businesses including all the Las Vegas casinos and ordered the residents to stay at home and avoid mass gatherings. The casinos included all MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, and Caesars Entertainment properties. MGM also closed Empire City in New York City temporarily and its venues in Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, and Massachusetts.

MGM will take hotel booking reservations from 1st May.

The outgoing MGM chief executive, Jim Murren said that the company was committed to providing a safe environment to guests and employees. He continued to state that despite the efforts they had taken to contain the virus in their properties, closing the operations was for the greater good and that they looked forward to reopening as soon as possible.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) on Sunday recommended that for eight weeks no gathering of more than 50 people would be held in the US.

Major tournaments affected

Churchill Downs announced that all live races for the next two weeks would be hosted without spectators including the Louisiana Derby. The preparations to host Kentucky Derby (May 1) are still ongoing and Churchill Downs said that if the event was to be postponed, the information would be communicated later.

In Canada, Ontario Lottery and Gaming has ordered the temporary closure of the Ontario casinos. The update on their reopening would be provided by the body at a later date.

The world of sport has been greatly hit by the pandemic with several cancellations experienced in and out of the US. Among the tournaments to be cancelled include the 2020 NCAA basketball tournament.


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