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U.S. States Taking Drastically Different Approaches With Gaming Markets

California And Miami Force Casinos To Re-Close, While New Jersey, Massachusetts And Minnesota Begin To Open And Expand Gaming Options


The U.S. brick-and-mortar gaming market is in complete disarray as local governments are moving in completely opposite directions about whether to open up or shut down its casinos in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, Illinois officially reopened its gaming market and a couple of MGM Las Vegas Strip casinos reopened. Mandalay Bay and Aria opened, bringing the total number of open Strip casinos to 21. The only Strip casinos still closed are MGM’s Mirage and Park MGM, Caesars’ Bally’s, The Cromwell and Planet Hollywood and Penn National Gaming’s Tropicana, which have been shuttered since the entire U.S. gaming market shut down in mid-March.

This took place as Nevada’s neighbor to the west was re-closing some of the largest cardrooms in the state. California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he was imposing tougher restrictions on indoor businesses in 19 counties in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The order forced both the Bicycle Casino and the Commerce Casinos to close for at least three weeks.

A day later, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A Gimenez issued a similar order on indoor businesses in his county that forced all Miami casinos to close. Unlike in California, most of the major Florida casinos are not located within the Miami-Dade county borders.

While Las Vegas is opening more Strip casinos, some Nevada gaming properties about 90 minutes south are shutting down after employees at casinos in Laughlin have tested positive for coronavirus.

Avi Resort & Casino shut down Monday “after a planned COVID-19 retesting of over 400 team members” resulted with “a few team members having positive COVID-19 test results,” according to a statement from the casino. The property will stay closed until July 10. Harrah’s Laughlin announced Thursday that seven of its employees have tested positive for the virus since reopening June 4.

But in other areas of the country, governments are getting ready to reopen casinos.

Atlantic City casinos officially reopened Thursday, although without indoor food, drinks and smoking. Gov. Phil Murphy’s last-minute decision to restrict those indoor activities. Borgata, the city’s highest-grossing casino, decided to stay closed instead of open under those conditions, but Hard Rock Atlantic City took the opportunity and was the first to reopen Thursday morning.

Tropicana, Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s all announced plans to open their doors Friday. All Atlantic City casinos will operate at 25% capacity.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday that casinos could reopen when Phase 3 of his multi-phased reopening plan began on Monday. The state’s two largest casinos, Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield have yet to announce when their doors will open again.

According to a report from Mass Live, it is unlikely that either will reopen on Monday. Last week, regulators from the state’s gaming commission said that poker, craps and roulette will not be permitted at the outset of the reopening process.

Minnesota poker players will have more options soon as one of the biggest poker rooms in the state is reopening next week. Canterbury park has been spreading blackjack since June 15, but their poker room will reopen its doors July 9 at 10 a.m.