Illinois Casinos Set To Reopen July 1
All of Illinois’ 10 casinos are set to reopen at 9 a.m. on July 1 after having their reopening hygiene procedures approved by the Illinois Gaming Board. The reopening will mark the end of the three-and-a-half-month shutdown imposed on non-essential businesses to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Casinos will now be able to offer limited forms of in-person gambling including video slot machines. For the time being, guests will be unable to compete in table game tournaments and poker rooms will remain closed. Visitor capacity will also be capped at 50 percent.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) worked closely with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration to create a list of health and safety requirements casinos must prove before reopening. On the date of the casino reopening announcement, IGB Administrator Marcus Fruchter anticipated a health-conscious and meaningful casino restarting process.
To make sure the reopening goes smoothly, the IGB will work closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Fruchter, this is the best way to ensure that both the safety and integrity of Illinois’ gambling market will be maintained.
In a news conference, Governor Pritzker ensured the new measures would keep both visitors and employees safe. While Pritzker couldn’t describe the precise steps casinos would need to take to keep gambling equipment sanitized, he assured residents that experts would guide casinos to make sure no one gets sick.
The shutdown has seen 5,000 casino employees out of work and has severely impacted the once-reliable revenue stream that Illinois gaming provides. Previous years have already seen gambling revenues decline, prompting the passing of an extensive expanded gambling bill to build more casinos and legalize sports betting last year.
Government officials are now worried that it will take years for revenues to rise to pre-coronavirus levels. Even with casinos allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity, many are concerned that usual visitors will be too cautious of the health risks of visiting to be lured back.
This is why casinos and regulators are spending so much time and effort on assuring visitors that they will be safe. Additional procedures to reinforce this idea is the mandatory use of face coverings, daily health screenings of employees, hand sanitizing stations, and the regular disinfection of equipment.
One person that is convinced that casinos will be able to provide a safe and comfortable experience is Tom Swoik, the executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.
“The casinos are gonna be some of the safest places people can be,” Illinois Casino Gaming Association executive director said. “All of them are being totally disinfected. They’re gonna have people continuously monitoring the machines and the tables, wiping every possible surface down.”– Tom Swoik, Executive Director, Illinois Casino Gaming Association speaking to The Chicago Sun-Times
Illinois now joins a growing number of states that have reopened casinos albeit under strict health and safety protocols. Neighboring Wisconsin first reopened casinos last month, while Indiana casinos opened June 15.
First Mobile Sportsbook Launches
For gamblers wanting to avoid visits to casinos, Illinois residents can finally place wagers on the first mobile sports betting platform in the state. BetRivers, the betting app of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, was launched after Governor Pritzker after he suspended the in-person registration requirement for bettors.
The Rivers Casino was also the first casino to open an Illinois sportsbook on March 9. Until the rest of the state’s sportsbook license applicants are approved, BetRivers holds exclusivity to the online betting market. Considering mobile betting draws more revenues than in-person wagers in states with legal mobile wagering, this is an enviable position.
Rivers Casino was able to open online bets earlier due to their application of a mobile betting license before the coronavirus closures. Only a week before BetRivers launched, the IGB issued seven Master licenses to other casinos in the state. However, they will need to wait longer to be approved to operate their own mobile sportsbook.
BetRivers was created in cooperation with Rush Street Interactive, a Chicago-based online gaming developer responsible for Rivers sportsbooks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The app allows players to bet on games around the world while having access to hundreds of live streams of sporting events so they can bet while watching.