Eight of the 10 casinos in Illinois will be operating under advanced mitigation measures by Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. CDT as the state braces for a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
Illinois is broken into 11 regions for COVID-19 to help the state deal with hot spots where there are high positive test rates and to ensure a sufficient number of available hospital beds overall, as well as ICU hospital beds. Over the past two weeks, Illinois has seen positive test rates tick upward, and Gov. JB Pritzker has moved six of the 11 regions out of Phase 4 of Restore Illinois.
Regions 4 and 10 were the latest ones placed on the rollback list Monday by Pritzker, with advanced mitigation measures set to take effect there Wednesday morning. The most notable changes for casinos are reducing their operating capacities to 25% from 50%, and limiting operating hours to 8 a.m.-11 p.m.
The most common trigger point of advanced mitigation has been when a region has a positive testing rate of at least 8% for three consecutive days. Region 10 — which covers the area surrounding Chicago in Cook County — reached the threshold by having eight consecutive days of increasing positive test rates and seven days of increased hospital admissions.
“We are seeing test positivity across the state increase, but for Region 10, suburban Cook County, we are also seeing a steady increase in hospitalizations for COVID-like illness,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters Monday. “At the beginning of the pandemic, we were concerned about overwhelming our hospitals and we must take action now to prevent that possibility. We are entering flu season and our hospitals are facing both COVID-19 and flu admissions. The same things that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will help prevent the spread of flu. Please, wash your hands, watch your distance, and wear your mask. And make sure to get your flu shot.”
Nearly all casinos facing rollbacks
Based on Region 8 exceeding IDPH criteria, new mitigation measures will be put into place beginning on Thursday, October 22nd at 11:00 pm.
• The casino hours of operation will be from 8:00 am – 11:00 pm.
• GVC will operate at a 25 percent occupancy capacity. pic.twitter.com/gIRAl1jHJG
— GrandVictoriaCasino (@GVC_Elgin) October 22, 2020
Rivers Casino — the state’s highest-performing casino — is in Region 10 and facing advanced mitigation measures for the first time. Home to the BetRivers Sportsbook for retail sports wagering and the BetRivers app for mobile/online sports wagering, it generated $117.6 million of the $139.6 million handle in Illinois for August, leading the way in both retail and online wagering with $11.3 million in person and $106.3 million online.
Rivers also generated more than $97 million in casino gaming revenue through September after casinos were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity July 1. It accounted for 38.5% of the nearly $252 million in revenue raised in the three months by the state’s 10 casinos. It is also more than three times the amount generated in that span by the second-biggest revenue provider: Harrah’s Joliet.
Region 10 also is home to Hawthorne Race Course, which opened its retail sports betting area Sept. 30 with PointsBet as its sportsbook. PointsBet launched mobile wagering two weeks prior, and the two will be partners for a racino scheduled to open December 2021 at the Stickney location.
In terms of sports betting, six of the seven casinos that are licensed for sports wagering will be operating under the advanced mitigation measures by 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, run by William Hill, and both Hollywood Casinos in Aurora and Joliet have been operating in such fashion since Friday when Regions 7 and 8 became subject to the stricter measures. It is the second time Hollywood Casino in Joliet has been under advanced mitigation measures.
That also holds true for DraftKings at Casino Queen and Argosy Casino Alton, which are both located in Region 4 in the southwest portion of the state along the Illinois-Missouri border. Both sportsbook-operating casinos were the first to be placed in advanced mitigation measures in mid-August when the East St. Louis area became a COVID-19 hot spot.
Despite the further limitations in capacity, the Argosy — which does not have mobile sports wagering available yet — still generated a retail handle of $2.7 million in August. The advanced mitigation measures became a flash point for DraftKings at Casino Queen, which took to an aggressive online campaign for Pritzker to renew his suspension of in-person registration for mobile sports wagering via Executive Order.
The push paid off as Pritzker did exactly that Aug. 21, four days after the advanced mitigation measures took effect, and the governor has renewed Executive Order 2020-41 on two occasions. It is currently in effect until at least Nov. 14.
Those unscathed … for now
The two casinos currently operating in Phase 4 of Restore Illinois are Jumer’s Casino in Rock Island and Par-A-Dice Casino — which has FanDuel as its sportsbook — in East Peoria, though it seems to be a matter of when and not if they will face advanced mitigation measures. Both casinos are located in Region 2, which reported a seven-day rolling positivity test rate average of 7.2% as of Monday, barely below the 8% threshold, and also three days of hospital admission increases.
In order for a region to return to Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, it must have a positivity rate equal to or averaging 6.5% for three consecutive days. In the case of Region 10, it must meet that criteria, record a decrease in hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illness, and have three-day rolling averages of ICU bed availability and medical bed availability of 20% or greater over a seven-day period.