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Detroit Casinos Permitted to Reopen on August 5

It’s been a long wait

After more than four months of darkness, Detroit’s casinos will finally be permitted to reopen. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on Wednesday, authorizing the three casinos – MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity, and Greektown – to reopen on Wednesday, August 5.

The one significant catch is that the casinos will be limited to just 15% capacity. As is the case with all other casinos around the United States, the Detroit casinos will also be required to implement a slew of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Governor Whitmer specifically referred to daily entry screening for all staff and guests, temperature screening, and a face covering requirement for everybody inside a casino except when eating or drinking or for identification purposes.

The three Detroit casinos are “commercial” casinos, as opposed to the more than 20 tribal casinos that dot the state. Some tribal casinos began reopening in May, as their gaming regulations are not overseen by the state government. Some are also in sparsely populated areas, such as the Upper Peninsula, where it is easier to take precautions to slow the spread of the virus. Detroit, on the other hand, was very hard hit early on in the pandemic.

Michigan’s daily new case numbers saw great improvement by mid-June, but like many states, being “open for business” has resulted in the curve climbing once again.

Two opening Wednesday, one opening Friday

Both the MotorCity and Greektown casinos have confirmed that they will be opening on Wednesday, August 5. MotorCity has said it will open its doors at 10am; Greektown did not specify on its website.

“While the amenities our guests have come to know and love may be somewhat limited for the time being,” said Greektown’s vice president and general manager John Drake, “the ability to safely welcome back our team members and guests remains our top priority.”

Greektown has listed several safety measures on its site, including disabling at least every other video gambling machine and table game. The casino has also installed more than 50 sanitization stations throughout the casino floor and new cashless payment options at all registers. MotorCity’s publicly-posted information is not as robust, but it can probably be safely assumed that most of it is the same.

MGM Grand will wait until 10am on Friday, August 7 to welcome back guests, with an invitation-only event before that.

“These have been difficult and challenging times, but the Detroit community continues to weather these storms and will come back stronger,” said David Tsai, president of MGM Resorts’ Midwest Group.

All three casinos will severely limit their amenities. Their hotels will not reopen right away and all of the casinos will keep their poker rooms closed. Pai Gow and craps tables will also remain off-limits at MGM Grand.

15% capacity limit is “onerous”

Detroit’s casinos are among the last in the United States to reopen. According to the American Gaming Association, 843 of the country’s 990 casinos are back in business.

Alex Calderone, managing director of the Calderone Advisory Group, told the Detroit Free Press that reopening at 15% capacity is better than nothing, but “Michigan may be playing it too safe.”

“Given that operating expenses have been slashed so drastically, it is possible they will be able to operate profitably, even at lower revenue levels driven by the 15% capacity restriction,” Calderone said.

He called Michigan’s capacity restrictions the “most onerous” of any gaming jurisdiction. Other states have limited casino capacity to as low as 25% and as high as 50% in some cases.

Because there is automatically a high level of fixed costs for a large venue like casino when it is open – electricity, heating and cooling, etc. – the facilities need a minimum flow of business just to break even. And while the casinos are all happy to be able to bring employees back, many of them add to expenses without directly contributing to revenue.

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