Michigan‘s three commercial casinos in Detroit will once again be forced to close as Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Sunday issued an executive order that will see dining and entertainment businesses shut down for three weeks from Wednesday, November 18, 2020, in order to help halt the spread of COVID-19.
Among the new restrictions ordered by Whitmer’s administration, the state’s high schools and colleges must halt in-person classes, while restaurants will be required to stop indoor dining, and entertainment businesses such as casinos, movie theaters, and bowling alleys must close for three weeks.
Power to act:
According to the Associated Press, in speaking with Capitol reporters on Monday the governor said she has urged the public to “double down” with precautions to avoid a stay-at-home order similar to the controversial one her administration issued in March, which drew on Whitmer’s broad executive powers under a state of emergency.
Detroit area casinos, including MGM Grand Detroit, operated by Las Vegas-based hospitality company MGM Resorts International, MotorCity Casino, locally owned by Marian Ilitch of IH Gaming (Detroit Entertainment, LLC), and the Penn National Gaming operated Greektown Casino have all been operating at 15 percent capacity, which is the strictest in the nation, since August 5 after executive orders issued by Whitmer closed all three on March 16, 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
The AP further reports the Midwestern state’s seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled going from 3,113 to 6,684 over two weeks; up nearly five times from 30 days ago.
From mid-March this year, nearly 1,000 commercial and tribal-owned and operated casinos across 43 states were shuttered to halt the spreading coronavirus. By late May, over 90 percent of the casinos had reopened and are operating now under strict state and tribal government-mandated COVID-19 guidelines and capacity limitations in place.
Michigan’s 24 American Indian tribal casinos, which are owned by federally recognized sovereign nations and governed by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order announced on Sunday.
More closures imminent:
A source reports that in a Sunday night note to investors, Carlo Santarelli, a gaming analyst for Deutsche Bank said it would be “unrealistic to assume this is the last of the closures.” And that until a vaccine is available, a “light at the end of the tunnel (won’t be) identifiable.”
Santarelli went on to tell investors…
“Though Michigan is a small part of the overall regional gaming puzzle, we do view the closure as another reminder of the risks inherent right now in the group.
“We will continue to monitor developments in other states and believe other potential closures will remain an overhang on regional gaming shares for the near term,” Santarelli said. “We also believe traffic trends, given tracked spend data in areas of the greater outbreak, are likely to curb as virus headlines return to focus.”
Similar procedures to those in Michigan have been implemented in states such as Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and New Jersey as new cases of COVID-19 have risen significantly, with casinos also being impacted.
- Illinois – operating hours cut at casinos including riverboat casinos and video gaming terminal locations, and like Whitmer, Governor J.B. Pritzker also warned of another mandatory stay-at-home order.
- Two weeks ago, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued an order requiring the state’s three casinos to close between 9:30pm and 5am, as part of an evening stay-at-home advisory.
- On November 11, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told the state that a partial shutdown, which could include casinos, could be possible.
- Indoor dining at New Jersey restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges, including casino restaurants, were ordered to close from 10pm to 5am by Governor Phil Murphy last Thursday.
Michigan’s governor has been widely criticized regarding her response to the coronavirus, with a group of legislator’s in the state reportedly preparing to call for Whitmer’s impeachment after the most recent restrictions were announced Sunday.