The Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday that casinos can commence the resumption of gaming at 9 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, July 1.
The announcement comes on the heels of Gov. J.B. Pritzker announcing earlier Thursday the entire state will be entering Phase 4 of Restore Illinois on Friday. Casinos across the Land of Lincoln have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March, which also put a damper on live Illinois sports betting that had begun one week prior to the shutdown.
Earlier this month, Pritzker issued an Executive Order suspending the in-person registration for mobile sports betting, and Rivers Casino — also the first to market in Illinois for legal sports wagering — was first to the mobile market via BetRivers.
“The Gaming Board worked with the Governor’s Office, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to develop a gaming resumption process that protects the public health of patrons and employees, while restarting gaming activities in meaningful way,” said Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter in a statement.
“The video and casino gaming industry have worked cooperatively and professionally with the IGB to develop best practices that create the safest possible environment for gaming, while adhering to IDPH, DCEO, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidance. We appreciate their cooperation and work toward the mutual goal of a resumption that protects the safety and integrity of Illinois gaming.”
The IGB announced a series of reopening protocols June 9 and noted in Thursday’s release that all 10 casinos have submitted a “Pandemic Resumption Plan that will guide operations” upon the resumption of gaming. Illinois has taken a more deliberate approach to reopening than some of its neighboring states, with some casinos in Iowa opening June 1 and Indiana resuming gaming June 15.
50% capacity and six-foot distancing the new norms
Per the IGB protocols, casinos had to submit plans that “detail occupancy requirements that allow up to 50% of the maximum capacity allowed under the fire code in each facility.” The other new normal of social distancing, maintaining six feet of space, will also be in effect, as casinos were to detail distancing guidelines covering table games and sportsbook areas and how the gaming floor will be “observed and enforced.”
The IGB also is requiring personal protection equipment (PPE) for all employees and patrons, with PPE provided at no cost to casino employees. Employees will also undergo daily health screenings and receive training on “social distancing, COVID-19 exposure mitigation strategies, recognition of COVID-19 symptoms, and procedures of reporting COVID-19 exposure.”
Casinos are also required to submit thorough cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing procedures, and it appears the IGB is leaving the frequency and interval of those cleanings up to the casinos. Poker rooms, table game tournaments, and buffet services will remain closed.
There was no mention of plexiglass in the IGB protocols, but Rivers Casino confirmed to Sports Handle earlier this month it was being installed at its Des Plaines location. That is consistent with other locations, with Rivers Pittsburgh also installing plexiglass ahead of its reopening earlier this month.
Since Illinois casinos were closed, the IGB did award seven sports wagering licenses. Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, Casino Queen in East St. Louis, and Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet were all granted Master Sports Wagering Licenses along with Rivers Casino and The Argosy — which had been previously approved to accept wagers on sports bets — during the regulatory agency’s most recent meeting June 11.