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Covid-19 leads to casino closures across US


Casinos have closed, both voluntarily and by law, across the US in response to the ongoing outbreak of the novel Coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The Indiana Gaming Commission, Illinois Gaming Board, Michigan Gaming Control Board and Massachusetts Gaming Commission have both ordered all casinos in their states to close for two weeks.

Meanwhile in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health director Amy Acton have issued a Director’s Order banning all “mass gatherings” of more than 100 people while Maryland governor Larry Hogan issued a similar order.

Today (16 March), Governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey jointly announced on a conference call that all casinos in their states would close from 8pm ET as part of a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

“We must do everything we can as a community to slow the spread of this virus so that we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system and we protect the most vulnerable. Viruses do not know borders, which is why taking a regional approach on this issue is the best plan forward,” Lamont said.

Indiana offers online sports betting but not online casino, while lottery is the only form of online gambling legal in Illinois and Massachusetts does not have online gambling in any form. Michigan does not yet have legal online gambling, while Ohio has not regulated online gambling, though there are no laws on its books prohibiting it.

Jay Snowden, president and chief executive of Penn National Gaming, said that although the casino had taken efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, he understood the reason for the closure.

“The health and well-being of our guests and team members will always be our paramount concern,” Snowden explained.

“Since the coronavirus threat began there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 at any Penn National casino and 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.

“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 casinos to welcome our loyal customers back.”

While Nevada has not yet banned mass gatherings, MGM Resorts International yesterday announced that it would temporarily suspend operations at its Las Vegas properties until further notice starting tomorrow (17 March). MGM also temporarily closed its Empire City property in New York City in accordance with an order from Mayor Bill De Blasio to end large gatherings, as well as its venues in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio.

In February, the operator opted not to give an earnings guidance for 2020 due to the effect of the outbreak on its operations in Macau, where all casino operations closed on 5 February.

MGM will not take reservations for hotel bookings before 1 May.

“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,” outgoing MGM chief executive Jim Murren said. “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 is 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.”

Wynn Resorts has closed its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore casinos as well as Encore Boston Harbor in Massachusetts for two weeks.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended on Sunday that no gatherings with 50 people or more be held in the United States for the next eight weeks.

Churchill Downs has announced that all live races for the next two weeks, including the Louisiana Derby, will occur without spectators, “with only essential staff, credentialed horsemen and media in attendance.”

Churchill Downs’ preparations to host the Kentucky Derby on its traditional date, the first Saturday in May, are “currently still moving forward,” but the operator noted that a decision to postpone the event may be made later.

Meanwhile in Canada, Ontario Lottery and Gaming (OLG) has ordered all casinos in the province of Ontario to temporarily close. OLG said it would, “provide an update on when the casinos will re-open” in the future.

The pandemic has also led to widespread cancellations in the world of sport across the US and beyond. All of the major American professional sports leagues have been suspended, as have the major European association football leagues while the 2020 NCAA basketball tournament has been cancelled.

Flutter Entertainment, the parent company of Paddy Power Betfair and FanDuel, has warned these cancellations could lead to a £110m (€121.3m/$136.0m) decline in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA). The operator said that 78% of its total revenue in 2019 was generated by betting on sports events.