ouisiana will allow casinos to reopen next Monday, May 18, making it the first big U.S. market to announce a return to gambling.
The reopening is subject to casinos gaining state-police approval of their plans, Louisiana Gaming Control Board Chairman Ronnie Jones told Bloomberg. The state will provide an early test of the gambling industry’s ability to bounce back from the coronavirus closing. Jones has also said temperature checks, mandatory hand sanitizing, and a series of screening questions will be asked before setting foot on the gaming floor. Each of the gaming venues will only be allowed to operate 25% of their gaming machines.
The state ranked fifth, behind Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, with casino revenue of $2.56 billion in 2018, according to the American Gaming Association. A few tribal casinos, including ones in Oklahoma, Idaho and Washington, have already reopened, as well as properties in small markets such as South Dakota, in Deadwood city.
Caesars Entertainment said tribal casinos it manages in Arizona and North Carolina are opening on May 15 and May 18, respectively. Arkansas, another small market, is expected to open on May 18. Caesars said the reopening in Louisiana may not immediately include its Harrah’s property in New Orleans due to the large outbreak that occurred there.
Louisiana has 20 state-regulated casinos and three tribal ones. Operations ceased on March 16th and were not specifically named in any of the phases of the reopening plans. On an earnings call Monday, Caesars said it is looking at opening three or four of its resorts in Las Vegas, including the high-end Caesars Palace and at least one of its lower-priced properties on the other side of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Casinos are releasing their plans to ensure the safety and health of guests, promising social distancing on their properties, masks for employees and extensive cleaning of slot machines and other items handled by the workers and the public. Properties will be operating with only half their slots and table games available, according to James Kilsby, an analyst with the consulting firm Gambling Compliance. “Casinos might be back in business,” he said. “But business as usual is definitely some months down the road, unfortunately.”
Tom Reeg, CEO of Eldorado Resorts, said on a conference call Monday that the virus may result in permanent changes in the business, such as the use of electronic dealer games that don’t require chips and less direct mail to customers. “There’s specific pockets of the business where the sector was antiquated going into this,” Reeg said. He expects his company’s merger with Caesars to close in June, or possibly July, depending on regulatory approvals.