Detroit Casinos Ordered Closed for 3 Weeks as Covid Cases Surge in Michigan

As the US sets new records for coronavirus cases each day, now averaging over 130,000, states have begun taking steps to lock down public gathering spots in an effort to contain the spread.

To that end, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an emergency order on Sunday, Nov. 15, that will see the closure of many public spaces in the state, including Detroit’s three casinos.

The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and remain in place for three weeks as the state continues to monitor the case data. As of now the order is set to expire on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

“This new order is geared towards stopping the spread by limiting indoor gatherings, steps public health experts say we must take to avoid overwhelming hospitals and death counts like we saw in the spring,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a press conference on Sunday.

“If we don’t take aggressive action right now, we could soon see 1,000 deaths per week here in Michigan.”

Cases in Michigan have been soaring, with the last week blowing way past its weekly record as 44,019 new cases were reported across the state.

Deja Vu All Over Again?

All three Detroit casinos were ordered closed in early March, shortly after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic. They remained shuttered for nearly five months until Aug. 5, at which point they were allowed to reopen under very specific guidelines.

For instance, smoking was banned at Detroit casinos. All patrons and employees were required to wear masks, and poker rooms were to remain closed. The restriction that perhaps had the biggest impact on casino bottom lines was a cap on capacity not to exceed 15% of full.

The order affects all three commercial casinos in Detroit, including Greektown Casino, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and MGM Grand Detroit. The state also has more than two-dozen tribal casinos, although they are not beholden to state law.

The MDHHS “Pause to Save Lives” order includes group fitness classes, all organized sports (except professional sports), restaurants and bars with indoor dining, high schools, colleges and universities, theaters, bowling centers, ice skating rinks, and indoor water parks.

Potential Impact On Michigan Sports Betting

When casinos were allowed to reopen in August under Gov. Whitmer’s Safe Start Plan, new restrictions were also placed on retail sportsbooks. For instance, markings were placed on the ground to ensure sportsbook patrons were a safe six feet apart. Sports betting ticket writers were required to wear gloves, a face mask, and maintain a plexiglass shield between them and the bettors at all times.

A Michigan Gaming Control Board representative reached by email said the Board “will enforce the order to support MDHHS’ public health efforts” but said they don’t expect the latest round of closures to have an impact on the state’s launch plans.

Sports betting became legal in the state in December 2019, but Michigan has yet to launch online sports betting or online casinos. Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden told Michigan Sharp in a wide-ranging interview this summer that the state was attempting to accelerate the timeline of launching iGaming in part to make up for lost casino revenue during the five months they were closed during the pandemic.

“This is the worst public health emergency our nation has faced in over a century, and our response has got to reflect the same level of urgency,” Whitmer said.

About the Author

Chris Nesi

Chris Nesi is a contributor at Michigan Sharp and the Managing Editor of Colorado Sharp. He’s been an editor and writer for more than a decade, with experience spanning newspapers, magazines, digital news, and commercial writing. His work can be found in publications including TechCrunch, Mental Floss, and Huffington Post. Chris enjoys politics and gambling, and writing about the points at which those worlds intersect.