As the Northern part of the United States continues to emerge from the closure of all non-necessary businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Illinois Gaming Board has authorized the reopening of its many gaming establishments. The looming threat of the COVID-19 pandemic forced Illinois to shut down all of its gaming facilities back on March 16. After the unprecedented closure that lasted more than three months, state officials finally feel that they have a plan in place that will allow patrons to safely return to the slot machines, poker tables, and video gaming terminals (VGTs) throughout the state.
Gambling in Illinois
Residents in the state of Illinois have come to enjoy a wealth of gambling options within their state. Illinois is home to 10 casinos and became the second state to legalize riverboat gambling with The Riverboat Gambling Act in February 1990. Since then, the state has welcomed further expansions in the form of video gaming terminals (VGTs) at retail establishment and truck stops, and The Sports Wagering Act. All of these gaming options were completely wiped out in March, as stay at home orders and forced business closures shut the doors of casinos and retail businesses, and professional sports were forced to suspend play.
The Illinois Gaming Board is now announcing its decision to allow all gambling venues to reopen in the month of July, albeit under new safety protocols. This means the reopening of all 10 casinos, as well as the 35,000 VGTs positioned in Illinois bars, restaurants, truck stops, and other retail locations throughout the state. Marcus Fruchter, an Illinois Gaming Board administrator, noted that the reopening plan was the result of collaboration between the Gaming Board, the governor’s office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Department of Economic Opportunity. The plan takes into consideration the health of both patrons and employees, as businesses look to bounce back from the economic impact that the closure has caused. These businesses officially reopened at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 1.
Increased Safety Protocols
In comparison to neighboring Indiana, whose casinos reopened on June 15, Illinois’ reopening plan seems a bit delayed. Illinois has been forced to take a more careful approach to their reopening, due to the fact that they have had a higher number of COVID-19 cases. After taking careful consideration of the way the virus has spread throughout the state, officials have been able to gauge whether or not the practices put in place in other reopening plans could be successful within their own state. Now that casinos and gaming retailers are reopening, the safety protocols that are in place resemble those that were put in place in other states like Indiana.
Casinos and businesses with VGTs have established that customers are required to wear a face mask whenever they are on the premises. Additionally, these establishments have modified the layout of their building to accommodate for social distancing requirements, reinforcing that customers should maintain a distance of six feet between them. These modifications may include tape on the floor to mark the distance that should be maintained, or even plexiglas partitions between customers and employees. In bars where slot machines are available, patrons must check in with an attendant before sitting down to play in order to ensure that the area has been cleaned before use. These spaces will also be opening with new capacity restrictions and will have designated sanitation areas for customers to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the virus.
The reopening plan is a collaborative effort between officials and represents a clear dedication to ensuring the safety of anyone interested in getting back to gambling. The cherry on top for those looking to return to the action will be when professional sports leagues return to play in the next two months, making sports betting available once more.