The Governor of Michigan Orders the Re-Opening of Casinos

It has been a horrid year for casino owners following the covid-19 outbreak. However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued an order directing casinos to re-open their doors for operation. There has been a two-week decline in the number of covid-19 hospitalizations and in new cases which is the main reason for the easing of restrictions.

Even as the directive brought good news for casino owners, some other establishments are still required to remain closed. The Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) gave the go ahead to casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, and similar venues to resume operations, while food and drink concessions are advised to remain closed till January 15. Also, in-person learning in high schools has been given the green light.

All three commercial casinos in Detroit, MotorCity, and MGM Grand Detroit have announced that they will re-open their doors on December 23. With the re-opening, there are still limitations and safety protocols these entertainment centers are expected to adhere to. All indoor entertainment venues like casinos, bowling alleys, movie theaters, etc., are expected to continue practicing social distancing and wear masks at all times. Also, the number of people that are allowed to gather at any point in time is no to exceed 100. Concessions are also prohibited at these venues. It is devastating because some of these centers rely on the sale of concessions to make a profit. However, it should not pose so much of a challenge to casinos.

Lesser Restrictions Expected Soon

After the nationwide lockdown that started in March, these facilities were allowed to re-open later in the year. However, a new set of restrictions were announced on November 15 and took effect on the 18th. It was a three-week pause following the dramatic spike in covid-19 statistics but was extended until December 20 to further access the situation.

Progress was made in the last month, with the Governor coming out to express her pleasure with the residents of the state. In her statement, she said, “These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of covid-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place.”

Despite the re-opening of these entertainment centers, the Governor and the MDHHS has advised residents to avoid indoor gatherings. The lockdown has proved effective even as the state has over 500,000 total cases and 12,000 total deaths. The seven-day moving average of new daily covid-19 cases has dropped from 7,312 on November 18 to 4,048 as of December 21. It is still a high number, but a clear indication that the lockdown yielded positive results.

Casino financials are down this year compared to what it was this time last year. $19.7 million was remitted to the state in November 2019 in development agreement payments and gambling taxes. For November 2020, only $5.7 million was remitted.

The bill for gaming expansion has been sent to Governor Whitmer for final approval. It is a bill that is expected to legalize online gambling. At the beginning of 2021, we are expected to see the launch of online betting in the state, although online poker might come a bit later.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.