US CASINOS CLOSE AS COVID-19 FEARS ESCALATE
A number of US states temporarily suspended land-based casino operations over the weekend as a precautionary measure against the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
The states of Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Rhode Island, all confirmed that casino operations would be temporarily suspended for at least the next two weeks, while casinos in Las Vegas, Pennsylvania, New York and Missouri have also decided to close their doors to the public.
The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has told the state’s ten casinos that their facilities must suspend gambling operations for 14 days from today.
“The public health of patrons, casino employees, IGB staff, and others is of paramount importance,” said the board.
Penn National Gaming has temporarily suspended operations at its Hollywood Casino Aurora, Hollywood Casino Joliet and Hollywood Casino Alton, while Boyd Gaming closed its Par-A-Dice venue last night.
“Since the coronavirus threat began we have implemented stringent CDC-recommended protocols throughout our enterprise, including increased daily cleaning regimens at our facilities, maximizing air circulation, cancelling or postponing all concerts and live events, and we’re in the process of temporarily closing down buffets, among other initiatives,” said Penn National Gaming president and CEO Jay Snowden.
“This is a challenging time for all of us, and we are very appreciative of the overwhelming support and understanding from our guests and team members. We look forward to reopening our doors just as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will be taking the opportunity to continue our deep cleaning efforts and preparing our casino to welcome our loyal customers back.”
The Indiana Gaming Commission said that based on changing circumstances and in the interest of public health, licensed gaming and racing operations will close for at least 14 days from 6:00am this morning.
The IGC will remain in consultation with the state’s licensed casinos, public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for when operations can resume.
Penn National Gaming has temporarily suspended operations at Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg and Ameristar East Chicago, while Boyd Gaming announced that its Belterra Casino Resort and Blue Chip Casino Hotel and Spa properties will close.
Governor Larry Hogan has issued an emergency order to close all Maryland casinos, racetracks, and simulcast betting facilities to the general public indefinitely.
In light of the serious public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 casino and racing venues and all simulcast betting facilities will be shut from midnight tonight, which will remain in effect until the state of emergency has been terminated or until superseded by other orders.
The closures effect venues including MGM National Harbor, Live! Casino & Hotel, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Pimlico Race Course and Fair Hill Races among others.
“This situation continues to evolve and will escalate rapidly and dramatically,” said Governor Hogan. “These are unprecedented actions in an extraordinary situation, but they could be the difference in saving lives and keeping people safe.”
The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency will work with casinos to facilitate an orderly shutdown of operations.
Governor Hogan reiterated that failure to follow his order prohibiting large gatherings is a crime, and will be enforced if businesses fail to comply.
“It is critical to public health and safety that bars, restaurants, and other businesses across the state comply with the law,” said Governor Hogan. “Anyone who hosts or is part of the crowds in bars this weekend is jeopardizing the health of others and must avoid any contact with family members or friends over the age of 60 or those with underlying health conditions.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted unanimously to temporarily suspend operations at the state’s three casino properties; Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the decision was made in collaboration and cooperation with licensees to safeguard the health and well-being of casino guests, employees, and regulators.
Gaming floors were officially closed at 5:59am yesterday, with the decision to be re-assessed in two weeks, while an orderly shutdown process is actively underway.
“As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation, our agency and our licensees will remain in close consultation with public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming operation,” said the MGC. “As we develop the appropriate course of action, we will keep you informed of next steps.
“We are all doing our best to appropriately and thoughtfully respond to this highly complex and unprecedented set of circumstances and uncertainties. United in a shared goal of preventing the spread of infection, the MGC and our licensees view this immediate mitigation measure as our social responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of one another above all else.”
Wynn Resorts said that it will continue to pay all full-time employees at Encore Boston Harbor during the period as it evaluates the impact of the temporary closure. A limited number of employees and management will remain at the resort to secure, sanitize and maintain the facility.
“The health and welfare of our guests and employees has been our primary concern throughout this health crisis,” said Wynn Resorts in a statement. “Encore Boston Harbor has been operating in excess of the safety recommendations of the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
MGM Resorts International has suspended operations at MGM Northfield Park, while Penn National Gaming has also closed its Plainridge Park Casino venue.
“We will do all we can to mitigate the impact on our employees and partners,” said MGM Resorts chief operating officer and president Bill Hornbuckle. “We will monitor this rapidly changing situation and will keep everyone informed as decisions are made to reopen as soon as we are able.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Friday to temporarily prohibit all events with over 250 people, with certain assemblages exempt from the prohibition, including those for the purpose of industrial or manufacturing work, mass transit, or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.
“This is about protecting the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus,” said Governor Whitmer. “My administration will continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread, and to ensure our children, families, and businesses have the support they need during this time. We are going to get through this, but we must be flexible and take care of each other.”
Pursuant to an order from the Michigan Gaming Control Board, MGM Resorts said that it will temporarily suspend gaming operations at MGM Grand Detroit by 5:00pm later today. All hotel, restaurant and bar operations will cease by this time as well, and are expected to remain closed for two weeks, at which time the status will be re-evaluated.
Penn National Gaming has also temporarily suspended operations at Greektown Casino-Hotel for a period of two weeks as a precautionary measure against the ongoing spread of COVID-19.
So far Gun Lake Casino is the only venue to proceed with a voluntary short-term closure to protect the health and safety of all casino guests and team members.
The property will close from early this morning until 30 March, with all events and promotions canceled during the period.
Gun Lake Casino will be utilizing this time to conduct an extensive and rigorous deep clean of the entire facility, with all public and administrative areas to be thoroughly cleansed and disinfected using advanced hospital grade procedures and solutions.
“Protecting the health and safety of our guests and team members is of utmost importance and our main priority,” said Gun Lake Casino president and chief operating officer Sal Semola. “While there is no requirement to close, we believe in doing our part to prevent of the spread of COVID-19.”
MGM Resorts has decided to temporarily suspend operations at its 13 Las Vegas properties until further notice, effective as of Tuesday. Casino operations will close later today at properties including Bellagio, ARIA, MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, followed by hotel operations.
“As the coronavirus pandemic has intensified in the United States over the past week, the people of MGM Resorts have worked to try to find a way to continue delivering high quality hospitality and entertainment experiences for our guests while keeping our employees doing the jobs they love in a safe environment,” said MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren. “Welcoming people from around the world is what we do, and our employees have tremendous pride in their work.
“Despite our commitment to dedicating additional resources for cleaning and promoting good health, while making difficult decisions to close certain aspects of our operations, it is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression.
“This is a time of uncertainty across our country and the globe and we must all do our part to curtail the spread of this virus. We will plan to reopen our resorts as soon as it safe to do so and we will continue to support our employees, guests, and communities in every way that we can during this period of closure,” said Murren.
Wynn Resorts has also temporarily closed its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore venues as part of its continuing effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The closure will be effective Tuesday, and is expected to be in effect for two weeks, after which time the company will evaluate the situation. A limited number of employees and management will remain at the resort to secure and maintain the facility.
New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announced yesterday she would strengthen the public health emergency order issued last week, amending the restrictions on social gatherings to limit the incidence of COVID-19 in the state.
The public health order prohibits gatherings of 100 or more but includes specific exemptions for shelters, retail or grocery stores, courthouses, correction and detention facilities and hospitals, among others.
From today, the amended public health order directs that all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments will operate at no greater than 50 per cent of maximum occupancy and no greater than 50 per cent of seating capacity.
The amended order also clarifies that all casinos and horse racing facilities must close until 10 April, though this provision does not apply to casinos operating on tribal lands.
“The best thing New Mexicans can do right now is self-isolate and limit person-to-person contact,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “We all have to pull together in this effort. Keep washing your hands with soap and water regularly. Stay at home. Remember your neighbors and buy only what you need when you are shopping.”
So far only one casino in New York State has closed its doors to the public, with others introducing new precautionary measures, despite Governor Andrew Cuomo banning gatherings of more than 500 persons.
MGM Resorts closed Empire City Casino in Yonkers on Saturday and expects to re-open in 14 days, though the operator will continue to re-evaluate its status.
“This is a challenging time and we regret the impact closure will have on our employees, their families and the community,” said MGM Resorts chief operating officer and President Bill Hornbuckle. “This is a unique and unprecedented public health crisis, and the wellbeing of everyone in the community is our most pressing concern.”
Genting Group’s Resorts World Casino New York said that precautionary measures are being taken due to the current situation, with capacity limited to 500 guests per section.
Rivers Casino and Resort Schenectady remains open but confirmed that all entertainment events had been postponed until further notice. Tioga Downs Casino is also open but has closed its poker room and postponed a number of events.
Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order to prohibit mass gatherings of more than 100 persons at any time.
According to the order, the state’s 11 casinos and racetracks with video lottery terminals are considered places of mass gatherings. The order will take effect immediately and will remain until the state of emergency declared by the Governor has been rescinded or modified.
Penn National Gaming confirmed it has temporarily suspended operations at its four gaming properties in the state.
The operator said that since Hollywood Casino Columbus, Hollywood Casino Toledo, Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway and Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course collectively employ more than 2,000 team members, it was left with no choice but to temporarily close those facilities.
Boyd Gaming’s Belterra Park closed on Friday in response to the order and said that it does not have an estimated re-opening date at this time.
Four of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos have temporarily closed over concerns regarding the coronavirus, with Governor Tom Wolf encouraging the suspension of large gatherings of 250 persons or more.
“Pennsylvania has taken a different approach than most other states and countries,” Governor Wolf said. “We’re trying to approach the coronavirus outbreak in a measured way. Where there is evidence of exposure to COVID-19, the commonwealth has taken decisive action.
“Closing schools and early learning centers – both public and private, prohibiting visitors from entering senior care and long-term care facilities, and closing government offices. We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds to determine if – and when – we will do this in other counties in Pennsylvania.”
Rush Street Gaming temporarily closed its Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh venues last night for fourteen days.
Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, the operator said it was suspending operations out of an abundance of caution and to promote the social distancing recommended by health officials.
Boyd Gaming’s Valley Forge Casino Resort remains closed until Friday 27 March, following a previous order by the Governor mandating the closure of all entertainment venues in Montgomery County.
Both of the state’s properties, Twin River and Tiverton Casinos, were closed to the public on Saturday following consultations between the Rhode Island Lottery and the state’s Department of Health.
The closure is anticipated to last one week, at which point the situation will be reassessed based on the most up-to-date data and guidance from the Rhode Island Department of Health.
“Impacted employees will be eligible for unemployment benefits,” said lottery director Gerry Aubin. “A limited number of employees will remain at the facilities to secure, sanitize, and maintain them. During the closure, Twin River will work with the Department of Health to implement additional protections for customers, before the facilities reopen.
“The casino management is fully cooperating with the lottery on the closure. We understand that this decision may be disappointing to our customers, and we appreciate your patience. Our top priority is the safety of Rhode Islanders.”
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