US casinos slowly start to reopen their facilities

By Noah Taylor Updated
US casinos slowly start to reopen their facilities

As the casino industry has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months, there is some good news for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Card Player reports that California governor Gaving Newsom has lifted his stay-at-home order, which was in place for most of the state.

Businesses that were forced to close that can operate outdoors, like restaurants, will be allowed to reopen for business.

As a method to get around the first way of coronavirus forced shutdowns, many California cardrooms began building outdoor tents to set up card games outside.

Those same properties that implemented outdoor operations will likely be allowed to reopen.

Local officials could force them to stay closed, although that seems unlikely since locals rely on the tax revenue generated by the cardrooms.

The Bicycle Casino, one of Los Angeles’ biggest casinos, tweeted Tuesday that they would be reopening “soon”.

Another major Los Angeles cardroom, the Commerce Casino, tweeted that it will reopen Wednesday for outdoor gaming.

According to a CBS News report, Newsom said that the state is projecting a decrease in most meaningful measures over the next several weeks.

“We are in a position, projecting four weeks forward, with a significant decline in the case rates, positivity rates, we are anticipating still more decline in hospitalisations and more declines in ICUs and that’s why we are lifting stay-at-home orders effective immediately,” Newsom said.

On the other side of the country, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker is lifting one key restriction for the casino industry in his state.

Baker is allowing the three Bay State casinos to return to 24-hour operations starting this Friday.

At the start of November, Baker forced the casinos to close at 9.30pm.

In response, Encore Boston Harbor, the largest of the three casinos, closed its hotel operations.

Other restrictions such as reduced capacity and limited amenities are still in place.

Poker rooms at both MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbour have yet to reopen.

In Pennsylvania, governor Tom Wolf shut down the casino industry for a second time in mid-December, until at least January 4.

Wolf didn’t renew the mandate and allowed casinos to reopen shortly after the new year.

Massachusetts’ casinos bounce back but recovery laboured

Business at Massachusetts’ casinos rebounded in December, but remained below pre-COVID levels.

Biz Journals reported in January that MGM Springfield, owned by MGM Resorts International, reported $11.4 million in gambling revenue in December.

That’s an increase of 8.5 per cent from the $10.5 million MGM reported in November, but down on the $19 million in gross gambling revenues from December 2019.

In December 2018, it reported $21.6 million.

At Encore, owned by Wynn Resorts, the Gaming Commission reported gross gambling revenue of $29.3 million, up about seven per cent from $27.3 million in November.

At Plainridge, gross revenue from poker machines was $9.2 million in December, up about 20 per cent from $7.6 million in November.

Plainridge, run by Penn National Gaming, does not have table games.

November was historically bad for MGM Springfield, with a revenue figure that was even lower than the $10.7 million recorded for July, when it wasn’t even open a full month following the state’s shutdown.

Casino revenues have been impacted by decreased patronage due to gathering restrictions thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Massachusetts state regulators said Thursdays that crowds at casinos aren’t even big enough to cross the new, lower, thresholds in place across the state.

MGM Springfield’s biggest crowd in recent weeks was 22 per cent of its capacity for its “Winning Wonderland” new car drawing on December 26, which was the Saturday after Christmas.

After the promotion, occupancy fell back to about 19 per cent.

MGM is operating under strict COVID precautions.

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