Only 100 guests permitted at a time
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a revised COVID-19 order, allowing the state’s casinos to reopen on Monday, December 21. Of the three commercial casinos, all located in Detroit, MotorCity and MGM Grand Detroit have said they will open their doors on Wednesday, December 23. Greektown has not made an announcement.
There are severe restrictions on the casinos, however, enough so that there is a question of whether or not opening is actually worth it. Total capacity – and this goes for all indoor venues like movie theaters, stadiums, and bowling alleys were customers can stay socially distanced and masked up – is limited to just 100 visitors. Aside from maybe the early mornings when slots players shuffle in, 100 is nothing for a casino.
On top of that, indoor food and beverage is still prohibited. That probably won’t be too big of a deal to a casino, but it is devastating for movie theaters and bowling alleys, places that rely on concessions for their profits. Of course, while the casino may be able to handle not serving food or beverage, that also means that many employees will still be out of work.
“These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” Whitmer said.
New COVID-19 dropped sharply during lockdown
Despite the reopening of casinos, Gov. Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, both advice Michigan residents to avoid indoor gatherings.
Michigan implemented a “three-week pause” starting November 18, following dramatic spikes in COVID-19 statistics, including all-time highs in new cases. Virtually everything that could close was required to close. The “pause” was extended until December 20.
And though the state just eclipsed the 500,000 total cases and 12,000 total deaths mark, the lockdown seems to have been effective, as new cases have dropped sharply. On November 18, the seven-day moving average of new daily COVID-19 cases was 7,312. As of December 21, that number has plummeted to 4,048. That is still way too high, but an apparent sign that the “pause” had its intended effect. It is pretty easy to see why: if people don’t hang out near each, a virus cannot spread.
As one would expect, Michigan casino financials are down significantly this year. In November 2019, the three Detroit commercial casinos paid $19.7 million in development agreement payments and gambling taxes. This past month, that number was all the way down to $5.7 million.