Arkansas And Missouri Extend Casino Closures Into April

Posted on March 31, 2020

As gaming facilities around the country remain closed, those in Arkansas and Missouri aren’t immune to the effects of COVID-19. Both states have extended the shutdowns of gaming properties like casinos and racetracks.

Casinos in AR will remain closed through all of next month, at least. Gaming facilities in MO are to discontinue operations through at least April 6.

Details on the statewide closures of Arkansas casinos

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson‘s original order for the state’s casinos to close would have expired on the last day of March. Before that happened, Hutchinson added another month to his order.

The earliest that any of the state’s three casinos will open their doors is now May 1. Hutchinson extended his shutdown order to keep pace with the latest guidance from the federal government, which suggests people avoid gatherings of 10 people or more through at least April 30.

That means Oaklawn Park, Saracen Casino, and Southland Gaming just outside of Memphis, TN, will remain shuttered through next month. Oaklawn has maintained its horse racing schedule, albeit without spectators in attendance.

Unlike governors in other states, he has not yet ordered Arkansas residents to shelter in place. Hutchinson has issued a directive for AR residents to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, however.

The same goes for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. Casinos in his state might take a less conservative approach to the coronavirus pandemic.

What’s going on with Missouri casinos right now?

The Missouri Gaming Commission (MGC) extended its shutdown order to April 6. The order originally ran through March 30.

While Parson hasn’t issued a statewide stay-at-home order for Missourians, local authorities in the state’s two biggest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, have done so. In Kansas City, the order currently runs through April 24.

The MGC’s order for MO’s casinos to remain closed says it is in compliance with the state health department’s guidance, so the MGC might extend the order if the MO Health Department adjusts that guidance.

There’s also a matter of whether casinos choose to re-open their doors to the public when state authorities lift their shutdown orders. The adage “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should,” could be relevant in this situation.

Competing interests when the state bans lift for casinos

When the casinos have the option to start allowing people back into their facilities, the decision about whether to do so will still be theirs. Competing interests will pull those operators in different directions.

While it’s obviously a priority to get some revenue coming back in, there isn’t any guarantee that will happen. Wary of the virus, patrons may opt to stay away even if the casinos are open. Because of that, resuming operations may pose the casinos with a financial loss instead of gain. There are also health and safety considerations.

Beyond the health and safety of casino personnel, operators also have to consider the health and safety of patrons. Some possible options include limiting the number of guests that can be in one area at a time and increasing the sanitation protocols around facilities. Casinos might opt to simply stay closed until the situation further stabilizes as well.

For the time being, the state governments in Arkansas and Missouri have decided to remain closed for these operators. That may remain the status quo for a while.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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