What gamblers can expect when they head back to casinos July 1
Expect to wear face masks, stay 6 feet from the nearest bettor and skip the buffet line when casinos reopen starting Wednesday in Illinois.
The state's 10 casinos are hurrying to put COVID-19 health protocols in place before they can open their doors for the first time in 3½ months.
After receiving word from Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Gaming Board Thursday about the planned July 1 resumption of casino operations, officials at all five suburban casinos confirmed Friday they will be ready to open by day one.
"Rush Street Gaming successfully reopened Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh recently, and many of the precautions and procedures we instituted there to keep our associates and patrons safe will be put into action in Des Plaines," Patrick Skarr, a spokesman for Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, said in a statement. "We are working closely with the Illinois Gaming Board, but our guests can expect increased cleaning, social distancing, and mask wearing by every team member and customer on the floor."
Some of what was put in place at Rivers' sister property in Pittsburgh that's expected to be replicated here includes fewer seats at table games, plexiglass at some betting terminals, floor decals to help keep people 6 feet apart, hand sanitizer stations scattered throughout the gambling floor, and regular sanitizing of slot machines and chips by cleaning crews.
The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, the Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet, and Harrah's in Joliet also have announced July 1 openings.
Each gambling house had to submit a resumption plan that takes into account health and safety requirements for review and approval by gaming board regulators.
"The video and casino gaming industry have worked cooperatively and professionally with the (gaming board) to develop best practices that create the safest possible environment for gaming," Gaming Board Administrator Marcus Fruchter said in a news release. "We appreciate their cooperation and work toward the mutual goal of a resumption that protects the safety and integrity of Illinois gaming."
While specific plans weren't immediately released by all the casinos or the gaming board, all gambling facilities have to adhere to a set of protocols released by state regulators earlier in the month. That includes 6-foot social distancing requirements; the availability and use of face masks and personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes; and cleaning of touch surfaces, table game areas, dice, chips and cards.
To gain entry to casinos, patrons will have to have their temperatures checked. Buffets, poker rooms, table game tournaments and valet parking is off limits for now, and total capacity is limited to 50%.
Operators of video gambling machines at some 7,300 bars, restaurants, cafes, taverns, truck stops and fraternal organizations in Illinois were also given approval to resume operations on Wednesday after approval of their safety plans, according to Joe Miller, the board's director of policy and special projects.
Slots can officially turn back on at 9 a.m. Wednesday.