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Ohio casinos facing curfew from governor

Ohio casinos are looking at reduced foot traffic after Gov. Mike DeWine said he would implement a three-week retail curfew, starting Thursday.

The curfew, announced Tuesday, requires individuals within the state to avoid retail businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The reduced hours are meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and prevent the state’s hospitals from being overrun.

“We think we can accomplish, frankly, a lot more by having this curfew than by closing one or two business sectors,” the governor said.

Ohio joins a growing number of states that have been paring back casino operations as the case numbers within the U.S. continue to surge.

Las Vegas-based operators

Unlike restrictions in other states, Ohio’s curfew is imposed on individuals, not businesses, according to Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the DeWine’s office. The order does not ask businesses to close, but Tierney said the state does “not expect” customers to visit casinos between 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. while the curfew is in place.

“The order closes no business, although we understand some business may change their hours as a result of the curfew,” he said.

Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International’s MGM Northfield Park, located outside of Cleveland, is doing just that. A spokesperson for the company said the casino will adjust its hours of operations to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for at least three weeks, starting Thursday.

“We are committed to following the health and safety practices to keep all of us safe,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp., which operates Belterra Park in Cincinnati, did not respond to a request for comment. Spokespeople for Penn National Gaming Inc., a Pennsylvania-based company that runs four Ohio properties in addition to the Tropicana and M Resort in Nevada, also did not respond to a comment request.

Reducing contact

Ohio’s curfew comes after its 11 casinos reported an uptick in gaming revenue in October. Total casino revenue was $74.8 million for the month, up nearly 10 percent year-over-year, according to the state’s gaming commission.

But as casino revenue has rebounded after closures, so too have the number of COVID-19 infections. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Ohio has jumped from 3,097 per day on Nov. 2 to 7,199 on Monday. Hospital and intensive care admissions for the coronavirus are at record highs, with more than 3,600 hospitalized as of Tuesday.

DeWine said the curfew and increased mask use could help cut contacts between people by up to 25 percent.

“We know if we reduce number of people we come in contact every day, we reduce the chance of getting the virus, and we reduce the chance of getting the virus if you unknowingly have it,” the Republican governor said.

Closing casinos — again

The curfew in Ohio follows a trend seen in gaming markets across the country. Some properties face curfews, while others have been ordered to shut down entirely.

New Jersey casinos now operate with a dining curfew, and Massachusetts has ordered its three casinos to close nightly at 9:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, Illinois became the third state to order its casinos to temporarily shut down again, starting Thursday. Casinos in Michigan are closing for at least three weeks, starting Wednesday. New Mexico’s 24 tribal casinos have also been ordered to close. Effective Friday, the city of Philadelphia’s sole casino, Rivers Casino Philadelphia, will shut its doors through Jan. 1.

According to the American Gaming Association’s online casino tracker, 97 of 994 tribal and commercial casinos across the country are temporarily closed, as of Wednesday.

It’s unclear how rising case numbers will impact Las Vegas casino operations. Last week, 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. The “Stay at Home 2.0” period is set to end Nov. 24.

MGM Resorts shares were trading at $27.16 Tuesday morning, up 2.8 percent on the New York Stock Exchange. Boyd shares were trading at $36.23, up 1.4 percent on the New York Stock Exchange. Penn National shares were trading at $68.05, up 4 percent on the Nasdaq.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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