Detroit casinos limited to 15% capacity during ‘initial reopening’


Detroit’s three commercial casinos will face some of the most restrictive measures in the country when they’re finally allowed to end their COVID-19 shutdown.

Detroit’s three casinos learned Monday that they will be restricted to just 15% of their respective Fire Department-mandated maximum capacities during the “initial reopening” after their pandemic lockdown, which has been in place since mid-March.

Casinos also won’t be allowed to operate their poker rooms, while most other table games will be limited to three players apiece, with four players allowed at roulette and mini-baccarat tables, and six allowed at craps tables. Dice must be disinfected for each new craps shooter and all dealers must wear masks and/or face shields.

The casinos’ new sportsbooks – which were in action for about a week before the lockdown commenced – will have to keep customers six feet apart at all times.

Customers will also be prohibited from smoking on the gaming floor – although casinos can provide dedicated smoking areas – and must wear masks “continuously” unless “drinking or eating.” Customers subject to identification checks will be required to temporarily lower their masks to confirm their identity and “surveillance must obtain a facial shot of each such patron.”

Nevada’s recent reopening has seen only around half of all guests bothering to wear their optional masks, which, combined with a half-hearted approach to social distancing, has left some medical professionals fearing a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19 infections.

The 15% capacity rule, announced Monday following a meeting of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), stands in stark contrast to the 50% limit imposed on Nevada casinos by that state’s regulatory bodies.

Yet MGCB exec director Richard Kalm stated that the body had crafted its rules based in part on “Nevada Gaming Board guidelines,” along with Center for Disease Control recommendations and consultations with the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Kalm said the MGCB required the casinos to propose their own reopening plans but also consulted with casino workers unions, which may have played the deciding role in the 15% capacity limit.  

Some of the state’s 23 tribal casinos have already begun opening their doors but Detroit operators will have to wait until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives them the nod. Some retailers were cleared to open as of June 4 and restaurants, bars and swimming pools were allowed to reopen on Monday, but casinos are among the venues that “will remain closed for the time being.”

Detroit’s casinos didn’t earn any revenue in May, but the MGCB nonetheless issued a revenue report covering the first five months of 2020, during which revenue has fallen 51.6% to $299.2m.