Detroit’s three casinos closing Wednesday

An order Sunday by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer intended to halt the spread of COVID-19 in her state will close the three casinos in Detroit for three weeks beginning Wednesday.

Whitmer announced wide-ranging new restrictions limiting gatherings at high schools, colleges, and restaurants Sunday night to combat what she described as the “worst moment” yet in the coronavirus pandemic.

The new restrictions include the closing of the Detroit area casinos, which include the locally-owned Motor City, Greektown, which is operated by Penn National Gaming, and MGM Resort International’s MGM Grand Detroit.

A spokesman for MGM Resorts declined to comment Sunday.

In a note to investors Sunday night, Deutsche Bank gaming analyst Carlo Santarelli said it would be “unrealistic to assume this is the last of the closures.” He added that “light at the end of the tunnel (won’t be) identifiable” until a vaccine is available.

Nationwide, starting in the middle of March, nearly 1,000 commercial and tribal casinos in 43 states were closed to stem the spreading virus. More than 90% of casinos returned to business starting in late May. Casinos are operating under state and tribal government-mandated COVID-19 guidelines covering health, safety, cleaning, and capacity limitations.

“Though Michigan is a small part of the overall regional gaming puzzle, we do view the closure as another reminder of the risks inherent right now in the group,” Santarelli told investors.

“We will continue to monitor developments in other states and believe other potential closures will remain an overhang on regional gaming shares for the near term,” Santarelli said. “We also believe traffic trends, given tracked spend data in areas of the greater outbreak, are likely to curb as virus headlines return to focus.”

In recent weeks, as COVID-19 infections have risen dramatically, state governors have implemented various procedures in an effort to halt the spread, which has also impacted casinos in their jurisdictions.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered a rollback last month on operating hours and services for certain businesses, including riverboat casinos and video gaming terminal locations. On Thursday, Pritzker warned that Illinois is heading toward another mandatory stay-at-home order.

Two weeks ago, in Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an evening stay-at-home advisory for residents and required the state’s three casinos to close between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. Other businesses were also impacted.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told the state last Wednesday that a partial shutdown could be in the offing. That move might include the state’s casinos.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy last Thursday ordered all restaurants, bars, clubs, and lounges to close indoor dining from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The restriction covered casino restaurants, but gaming is continuing unabated.

“To be clear, the last thing I want to do or any of us want to do is to shut our economy back down and, thankfully, we are not at that point,” Murphy told the Press of Atlantic City.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak implored residents a week ago to stay home “as much as we possibly can” over the next two weeks in order to control the latest spread of COVID-19, which spiked to record-high levels. Sisolak announced late Friday that he had tested positive for the virus.

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