Casinos have closed throughout the country in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus or COVID-19.
The closures causing Las Vegas and Atlantic City to go dark this week grabbed national attention. States near Tennessee with casinos have all followed suit as well, either voluntarily or by order of governors and gaming regulators.
Casinos all closed in Tennessee border states
Missouri and Arkansas
On Tuesday, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced that, after having consulted with the chair of the Missouri Gaming Commission, all of the state’s 13 casinos to close that night at midnight. The properties will remain closed through March 30 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile in Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday similarly ordered the state’s three casinos to close for two weeks. However, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort had already shut its doors last Sunday.
North Carolina and Alabama
In North Carolina, both Harrah’s Cherokee casinos ended last week, announcing an intention to remain open. This, despite Gov. Roy Cooper ordering the closure of public schools and prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people. But as this week began, that position changed. Harrah’s closed both casinos on Wednesday morning, again announcing the closures would last for two weeks.
In Alabama last week, a visitor to Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Wetumpka tested positive for COVID-19. This prompted a 24-hour closure of all three Wind Creek Alabama properties on Sunday. Before reopening, however, management decided to keep all three properties closed through March 30. The decision came three days before Gov. Kay Ivey ordered shutdowns of all beaches, child and daycare facilities, restaurants and bars on Thursday.
In Mississippi, Gov. Tate Reeves delivered the news on Monday that all 30-plus of the state’s casinos would have to close by order of the Mississippi Gaming Commission until further notice. The order left it up to each property whether or not to close their hotels.
Such orders do not cover tribal casinos. Nonetheless, after staying open through Wednesday, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians closed their three casinos in the state through April 1.
Nearly all of the closed casinos in these five states have pledged to continue paying employees over the next two weeks with no interruption to benefits. As is the case all over the country, requirements to receive unemployment benefits are being eased in these states as well.
Of course, should the shutdown continue into April or longer, it will likely prove difficult for casinos to continue to provide assistance to their employees.
AGA notes economic impact, calls for government assistance
The American Gaming Association issued a statement on Thursday detailing the severe economic impact such closures are having on the industry and will continue to have going forward.
An estimated 616,000 casino gaming employees are prevented from working because of the important health and safety decisions made by state governments” across the country, said AGA President and CEO Bill Miller. According to a fact sheet prepared by the AGA, 95% of the country’s commercial casinos (443 total) and 82% of tribal casinos (429 total) are closed.
“Gaming employees, their families, and communities are bearing the brunt of this economic standstill and will continue to suffer if Congress and the administration don’t take immediate action,” said Miller. He added that the casinos remaining closed for eight weeks “will rob the US economy of $43.5 billion in economic activity.”
The AGA says COVID-19 closures have affected about 98% of the casino workforce or close to 622,000 casino gaming and resort employees in the country.