© Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Guests and media crowd into the sports book area on Monday, March 9, 2020, at the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
Illinois casinos will close for two weeks because of coronavirus concerns, the gaming board announced Friday shortly after Rivers, the state’s largest casino, said it would temporarily halt operations.
The Illinois Gaming Board ordered all of the state’s 10 casinos to close for 14 days beginning Monday. Rivers Casino in Des Plaines made a voluntary decision to close starting Sunday.
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“Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, we are suspending operations out of an abundance of caution and to promote the social distancing recommended by health officials,” Rivers said in a news release.
Mar 17, 2020 Puyallup Tribe of Indians shut down both of its Emerald Queen Casino locations in Pierce County for two weeks, starting March 16. The Snoqualmie Casino will close to the public at 2 a.m. Mar 13, 2020 Rivers executives said they decided to close the casino after Gov. Pritzker on Thursday called on establishments statewide to cancel gatherings of 250 people or more. Employees will still be. Apr 10, 2020 Casino Queen Marquette in Iowa announced on its Facebook page that it is going to remain closed until further notice: 'We are sending our thanks, love and prayers to everyone out there allowing us to remain safe! We remain closed at this time for the safety of everyone.
The abrupt closing of Rivers and the other casinos is a sign of just how fast the coronavirus pandemic is changing the game for Chicago-area businesses large and small.
On Monday, Rivers opened the state’s first sports book with great fanfare, launching just ahead of the potentially lucrative March Madness NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which was scheduled to begin Sunday.
By Friday, the tournament was cancelled, the NBA and NHL suspended their seasons and Major League Baseball canceled the rest of spring training and pushed opening day back at least two weeks, leaving little to bet on at Rivers’ new sports book.
An order by Gov. J.B. Pritzker Thursday to shut down events of more than 1,000 people played into Rivers’ decision to close the casino.
“We have been and will continue to carefully follow the advice and guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), public health experts, and the State of Illinois — including the principles set forth in Governor Pritzker’s March 12 address,” Rivers said in its news release.
It was a different story earlier this week at Rivers, as casino executives, gaming board officials and politicians gathered to watch former Chicago Blackhawks star Eddie Olcyzk place the first legal sports bet in Illinois. But the elephant in the room was the spreading coronavirus outbreak, which triggered a stock market selloff and cast a pall over the ceremonial opening.
At the event, Neil Bluhm, the Chicago real estate developer whose Rush Street Gaming built and operates Rivers Casino, vowed the casino would “get through this virus.” But like many other businesses, the casino will now wait it out from the sidelines over the next two weeks.
Rivers said it would continue normal payroll for its employees during the 14-day suspension.
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On Friday morning, the Argosy Casino Alton near St. Louis announced it was canceling its grand opening scheduled for Monday, but that it was still taking bets on the dwindling number of sporting events that remained active.
That plan was moot by Friday evening, after the gaming board issued the order for all Illinois casinos to cease gambling operations no later than midnight Monday for at least 14 days.
The decision to temporarily close the state’s 10 casinos does not affect the more than 7,000 licensed bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal organizations featuring video gaming terminals, Joe Miller, Illinois Gaming Commission spokesman, said late Friday.
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