The Illinois Gaming Board has announced its guidelines for reopening following closures caused by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, with casinos to operate at 50% capacity and poker rooms staying closed.
Both casinos and video gaming terminal operators may return to activity when Illinois enters Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan, which can happen on 26 June at the earliest. All land-based gaming facilities have been shuttered since March 16.
Casinos will be limited to 50% of fire code occupancy, while poker rooms and table game tournaments will initially be prohibited, as will buffet food service.
Operators must create a “Pandemic Resumption Plan”, which must be approved by the board before activity can resume.
This plan must address reopening procedures, how six foot social distancing requirements will be enforced in 20 different areas including the gaming floor, queuing areas, entrance and exit points and back-of-house areas.
In addition, personal protective equipment (PPE) must be provided to all staff free of charge and the plan must outline PPE requirements for customers, including exceptions, and procedures for identity verification and surveillance purposes.
In the plan, casinos must also provide cleaning procedures for 16 different areas, mainly frequent touch points such as doors and counters, as well as gaming equipment such as chips, dice and cards.
The plan must also include details of staff training on topics including recognition of Covid-19 symptoms, procedures for reporting Covid-19 exposure and proper use and disposal of cleaning and disinfectant products.
Employees must be screened for symptoms including fever every day, while signs to remind employees to keep at a distance from one another should be frequent.
All operators must appoint a “pandemic response liaison”, a new role that will act as a point of contact between the operator and the Gaming Board regarding the licensee’s reopening plan. This individual will also be responsible for ensuring compliance with health and safety regulations.
Operators of video gaming terminals, meanwhile, will be given different options on procedures to return.
They may erect plexiglass screens, one foot higher than head level, around gaming terminals, space the terminals at least six feet apart or only activate terminals which are already 6 or more feet from the nearest active terminal.
Video gaming terminal operators must also have their own pandemic liaison operator and pandemic resumption plan which outlines the distancing strategy between machines, as well as the same PPE requirements as for casinos and distancing strategies for eight different areas of their premises.
Video gaming terminals in Illinois are supplied by Scientific Games, which last month announced a range of new measures to help operators resuming activity after the virus.
Casinos in Illinois first closed on 16 March, with the regulator saying at the time that it would review the suspension at the end of that month, before extending the shut-down to 30 April and again indefinitely.
Earlier this month (5 June), Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order to temporarily relax rules that require consumers in the state to register in-person in order to access online sports betting services.