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Louisiana casinos to reopen with 25% occupancy


Casinos across Louisiana will be permitted to reopen from today (May 18) after the state’s Governor, John Bel Edwards, lifted a number of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Edwards last week said that Louisiana would enter Phase One of its ‘Roadmap to a Resilient Louisiana’ on May 15, permitting a number of businesses to reopen after they were forced to temporary close due to the outbreak.

Restaurants, cafes, gyms, shopping malls, cinemas, museums and fitness centres were among the facilities allowed to reopen from May 15, while racetracks were also permitted to open, albeit without spectators in attendance.

Casinos and video poker establishments are also able to recommence activities from today, but with certain limitations in place. Such facilities may only operate at 25% capacity, while only offering 50% of their gaming positions, which must also be spaced out to allow for social distancing.

Gaming facilities must have a plan approved by the Gaming Control Board prior to reopening, as well as commit to enhanced sanitation across their locations.

However, despite the order, Governor Edwards said Louisianans should stay at home as much as possible, while people at higher risk from coronavirus should remain at home unless they are travelling for an essential activity.

“Thanks to the hard work of the people of Louisiana under the Stay at Home order, we have seen declining new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations,” Edwards said. “This, coupled with increased testing and contact tracing capacity, is what is allowing us to move to Phase One.

“While this a step forward for our state, I want to encourage the public and business owners to proceed cautiously and to take the necessary steps to protect themselves, including wearing a protective face covering like a cloth mask when they are in public, keeping social distance from people outside of their households and practicing good hygiene.”

Other businesses such as amusement parks, arcades, fairs, pool halls, bowling alleys, playgrounds, theme parks and adult entertainment venues must remain closed until further notice.

The announcement comes after the Louisiana State Senate last week also passed a bill to legalize sports betting in the state, by a margin of 29-8, and will now move to the House of Representatives for further scrutiny.

SB130 – proposed by Senator J. Cameron Henry – aims to hold a parish-by-parish referendum on whether to allow sports betting in Louisiana, with only those jurisdictions that vote in favour will be permitted to offer wagering.

The proposition would appear on the ballot of the 3 November, 2020 election.

Certain states across the US are starting to put together plans to allow for the safe reopening of casinos and gambling venues as coronavirus measures are eased. Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said that casinos in the state must limit the number of players in their facilities and at gaming tables when they reopen.

Operators are also making similar plans, with MGM Resorts last week saying it had devised a seven-point safety strategy, based on advice from medical and scientific experts, to deter the spread of the virus, protect customers and staff, and respond to potential new cases.

Caesars Entertainment has also developed a health and safety program to bolster its existing standards, including enhanced cleaning and sanitisation of public spaces and guest rooms, with all staff to be trained on the new procedures and policies.