The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way we do most everyday activities. Not only have restrictions been placed on work and home life but they have reached into our many forms of entertainment. Anywhere the general public gathers to dine, work, or play, new and changing guidelines must be followed in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. Casinos are one of the hardest-hit locations. In this article, we will explore the changing landscape of gaming and how COVID-19 has caused an evolution in that industry in Illinois.
New Restrictions From the IGB
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has recently introduced a new menu of restrictions aimed at licensed gaming venues. These restrictions focus on two of the state’s regions – Region 4 and Region 7. The goal is to fight the rebound of positive COVID cases that have developed in those key areas. The restrictions affect how long the casinos are open daily, when food and beverage services can be offered, and enforce mask wearing for both customers and staff.
Casinos Affected In Joliet
Both the Hollywood Casino Joliet and Harrah’s Casino Joliet must immediately meet the new guidelines. They include the following:
– Hours of operation are changed to 8 am to 11 pm daily
– Casino occupancy moves from 50% of fire code capacity down to 25% of fire code capacity
– Food and beverage service is suspended inside casinos
– Outdoor, curbside, and carryout food and beverage service is permitted
– Wearing masks is mandatory at all times inside the casinos
– Gathering around table games, carnival games, and EGDs is forbidden
– Social distancing, sanitizing, and other related protocols are still in effect in accordance with the Casino Pandemic Resumption Plan
The restrictions in immediate effect in Region 7 (Kankakee and Will Counties) include the following:
– video gaming operations in all licensed video gaming locations are limited to the hours of 8 am and 11 pm daily
– Food and beverage service is suspended in the gaming area
– Curbside and carryout food and beverage service can continue
– Wearing masks is mandatory inside the gaming area at all times
– Gathering around video gaming terminals is not allowed and the limit is set at one person per video gaming terminal.
Other Illinois Casino Restrictions
As of September 1st at 5 pm, the IGB implemented changes to COVID-19 protocols at DraftKings Sportsbooks located at Casino Queen and Argosy Casino Alton including:
– indoor food and beverage service suspended
– Outdoor, curbside, and carryout food and beverage service is allowed
– hours of operation changed to 8 am to 11 pm daily
– Casino occupancy levels have dropped from 50% of fire code capacity to 25% of fire code capacity
– Wearing masks is mandatory inside the casino at all times
– Gathering around table games, carnival games, and EGDs is not permitted
The restrictions in Region 4 (Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St Clair, and Washington Counties) went into effect as of 5 pm on September 1st and include:
– Hours of operation for video gaming activities at all licensed video gaming locations are 8 am to 11 pm
– Food and beverage service is suspended in video gaming locations
– Outdoor, curbside, and carryout food and beverage services are allowed
– Mandatory mask-wearing at all times inside the video gaming area
– Gathering around video gaming terminals is not permitted and a limit of one person per video gaming terminal is in effect
– social distancing, sanitizing and other COVID-19 protocols remain in place in accordance with the Terminal Operator Pandemic Resumption Plan.
What if a Casino Fails to Comply?
The Illinois Gaming Board has said they would implement disciplinary measures to any casino operation that does not comply with the new COVID-19 restrictions. However, the IGB has not indicated exactly what those measures are. They have hinted at them ranging “up to and including license revocation” so this likely means the lower end of the scale could include such consequences as temporary closures and fines. No suggestions are offered about what casinos can do if customers refuse to comply with the new orders.
COVID-19 Cases Continue to Climb
It is pretty easy to see why casinos in these regions of Illinois have implemented newer, stricter guidelines to combat COVID-19: state numbers of active cases have continued to increase. For example, on July 1, 2020, there were a total of 144,013 active cases in the state. That figure was up 22,779 from the 121,234 recorded on June 1. The monthly increases have not slowed down. There were 36,463 new cases reported from July 1 to August 1 and another 56,039 from August 1 to September 1. There is no sign of the pace slowing down anytime soon. This continued growth in active cases has put the onus on public facility operators to take a hard look at their operations to see what can be done to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Casino floors are social places that quickly get packed with visitors. It doesn’t matter if you are winning or losing, the excitement factor is still there and it brings people together. Ordinarily, that would be a good thing. However, with the way COVID-19 continues to spread in the state of Illinois, lawmakers have taken an aggressive approach and implemented tighter restrictions. The IGB has taken the lead in the gaming industry and set new boundaries for gaming activities at several top sites in specific regions to slow the spread of coronavirus. The only way to learn if these changes help is if those businesses affected comply with the rules. While these new restrictions are accompanied by a warning that casinos not toeing the line will be subject to disciplinary action, it is hoped casinos enforce that message to their customers. With everyone working together, COVID-19 can be beaten and casino gaming can go back to something closer to the way it used to be.