Detroit Casinos Still Closed

Detroit casinos are preparing to reopen soon, though no official date has been handed down by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (l.). MGM Grand Detroit Casino, MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino closed on March 23; meanwhile, most tribal casinos in the state have opened.

Casinos in Detroit are preparing to reopen soon, but no official date has been announced, though Governor Gretchen Whitmer had said she’d like to launch Phase 5 of Michigan’s reopening plan in response to Covid-19 by July 4. Whitmer lifted her stay-home order on June 1, but casinos and many other businesses were required to remain closed.

The MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity and Greektown casinos all closed on March 23.

On June 8, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) issued new health and safety protocols for casinos, including limiting capacity to 15 percent; mandating masks for guests and employees; mandating temperature screenings; keeping poker rooms, buffets, valet and coat checks closed; and prohibiting smoking on the gaming floor.

In addition, hand sanitizers will be readily available. Plexiglas barriers have been installed and chairs have been removed to promote social distancing. Also, cleaning staff will continually clean and sanitize surfaces.

Most of Michigan’s tribal casinos have reopened with guidelines similar to the Detroit casinos.

However, as new daily cases of Covid-19 continue to climb throughout the state, the casino reopening date may change, Whitmer’s office said.

Meanwhile, state Senator Adam Hollier introduced Senate Bill 969, which would allow commercial and tribal casinos to launch online gaming as a way to boost revenue lost due to Covid19—months before statewide regulations are finalized.

“This is fundamentally about revenue,” he said. “Casino gaming is a significant revenue source for a variety of governments across the state, and is used for essential needs.” The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.

Hollier’s bill would allow internet-based gaming—apart from onsite and online sports betting—until social distancing measures are “no longer necessary” in Michigan and before the state issues online gaming licenses, he said.

MGCB spokesperson Mary Kay Bean said regulations are being developed for online gaming, which could launch in early 2021 or by late this year “if all goes well during the rulemaking process.” Hollier noted, “That’s five months of lost revenue we could be talking about. In my opinion, it’s a no-brainer: It brings revenue here and allows people to be home and safe.”

The bill would grant provisional internet gaming supplier licenses to commercial and tribal casinos and allow license holders to contract with a person or tribe outside the state to provide the necessary software. Legislation signed by Whitmer in late December 2019 established a framework for internet gaming and onsite and online sports betting. In early 2020, several tribes began offering online gaming.

The Senate Fiscal Agency indicated sports betting and iGaming could produce $15 million to $40 million annually for the School Aid Fund.