Video gaming terminals could be lit up and ringing again in Illinois bars and restaurants by the end of June, but there is no such luck for the state’s casinos.
The green light has been given for video gaming terminals to be operational when Illinois hits phase 4 in its coronavirus recovery plan, which could happen as soon as June 26.
No target date for casinos’ reopening has been issued by the Illinois Gaming Board, which oversees all gambling operations in the state.
“The timing is unknown at this time,” Marcus Fruchter, administrator of the Gaming Board, said regarding the relaunch of casinos in the state. “We all share the same goal of resuming gaming as safely and as judiciously as possible.”
No licensed operator of gaming terminals or a casino will be allowed to let patrons gamble once again without a detailed social distancing and coronavirus precautions plan in place that the Gaming Board has approved. That plan must include information on how the facility plans to ensure 6 feet of distance between patrons, its cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and how it will deal with patrons who do not wear masks in the gaming area.
Also, all gamblers and employees will be required to wear a mask and go through a health screening when entering the facility.
In a June 9 memorandum to all video gaming terminal operators, the Gaming Board provided the rules for restarting operations.
Terminal operators have four options:
- Erect transparent physical partitions between gaming terminals to separate customers
- Adjust the terminal layout within the gaming area so machines are at least 6 feet apart from base to base
- Some combination of the first two options.
- If the establishment is going to do one of the first two options, but cannot get the physical improvements done by the start of phase 4, it can designate machines that are 6 feet apart for reactivation
When they reopen, casinos in the state will only be allowed to be at 50 percent of allowable capacity.
In a similar June 9 memorandum to casino operators, the Gaming Board spelled out the rules that casinos will have to meet to start operations again.
Among the restrictions placed on casinos are:
- No buffet food service
- No poker rooms
- No table game tournaments
- No promotions that require patrons to cluster or be in violation of the 6-foot social distancing requirements
- No valet parking service
Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, said that the state’s regulators seem to be putting a lot of faith in the casinos, terminal operators, and licensed establishments when it comes to reopening plans.
“You are putting a lot of trust in gambling companies with the reopening rules,” Bedell said during the Gaming Board’s meeting Thursday (June 11). “Are you going to physically send agents into establishments to adhere to reopening rules?”
She questioned how strictly establishments with video gaming terminals would enforce the reopening rules.
“Their best customers spend hours (at a machine). Are they going to be told to leave if they remove their mask?” Bedell asked. “Will they comply if others in the restaurant are unmasked? Many of these places only have one person monitoring the games. What action is that person going to take if someone becomes belligerent?”