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Illinois becomes 3rd state to close its casinos for a 2nd time

Updated November 18, 2020 - 12:47 pm

A third state has ordered its casinos closed again as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzger’s “Tier 3 Resurgence Mitigation Plan” announced Tuesday will suspend all Illinois gaming at 11:01 p.m., Thursday. There was no indication how long the closures would last.

On its website, the Illinois Gaming Board said failure to comply with the plan could subject licensees to disciplinary action, including the revocation of gaming licenses.

There are 10 licensed casinos in the state.

Reno-based Caesars Entertainment Inc. and Pennsylvania’s Penn National Gaming. which runs the Tropicana and M Resort in Southern Nevada, are the public companies likely to be affected most by the closures.

Both companies emailed statements Wednesday.

“In compliance with government directives, Caesars Entertainment’s three Illinois properties, Harrah’s Joliet, Harrah’s Metropolis and Grand Victoria Casino Elgin, will temporarily shut down beginning at 11 p.m. on Thursday,” a company spokesperson said. “The safety of our guests, team members and community is our top priority and as such we will continue to follow the recommendations of local regulators and public health officials.”

Wyomissing-based Penn, which operates Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet and Argosy Casino Alton, said it has been successfully complying with changing policies since June.

“The health and well-being of our team members and customers remains our paramount concern,” a company spokesman said in its email. “We will continue to work closely with the Illinois Gaming Board, state and local leaders and public health officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

There’s no tribal gaming in the state.

Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio

On Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered that state’s 27 tribal and commercial casinos to close as of Wednesday. The biggest impact is on Detroit’s three commercial properties, which includes one operated by Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International.

In New Mexico, state officials began closing the state’s 24 tribal casinos on Monday.

In addition, Ohio casinos are responding after Gov. Mike DeWine announced a three-week retail curfew running from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., starting Thursday. Officials emphasized that the curfew is for patrons and not businesses.

The reduced hours are meant to curb the spread of the virus and prevent the state’s hospitals from being overrun.

It’s unclear how much the curfew would affect casino operations.

Two Las Vegas-based operators have casinos in Ohio: MGM Resorts International runs MGM Northfield Park in the northeastern part of the state, and Boyd Gaming Corp. operates Belterra Park in the southwest corner of the state. Penn National has four casinos in Ohio.

“The order closes no business, although we understand some business may change their hours as a result of the curfew,” said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the DeWine’s office.

A spokesperson for MGM Northfield Park said the casino will adjust its hours of operations to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for at least three weeks, starting Thursday.

Representatives for Boyd and Penn did not respond to a comment request.

In addition to the various closures and restrictions, some markets have reduced hours of operation or have modified closures. Massachusetts, for example, reduced hours at its three commercial casinos. In Pennsylvania, where there are 13 commercial casinos operating, only the Rivers Casino Philadelphia is being shuttered. It’s scheduled to close Friday through Jan. 1.

Gaming industry analysts say closures elsewhere could portend closures of commercial casinos in other locations, including Las Vegas.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak warned that the state could take “further action” if the number of cases doesn’t improve within a two-week period.

“It is hard to imagine a world in which we don’t see more restrictive operating environments for U.S. retail casinos across the next two quarters,” said Chris Grove, a financial analyst with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. “The only questions are how restrictive measures will be and what specific form those measures will take.”

All three gaming companies, MGM on the New York Stock Exchange and Penn and Caesars on Nasdaq, saw their stock prices climb Wednesday.

MGM rose 49 cents, 1.8 percent, to $26.91; Caesars, 7 cents, 0.1 percent, to $63.80; and Penn, $1.75, 2.7 percent, to $67.17, at the closing bell.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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