Illi­nois casi­nos rake in $82.6M in first month since shut­down

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MITCHELL ARMENTROUT, STAFF RE­PORTER mar­men­trout@sun­times.com | @mitchtrout

Masks, plex­i­glass shields and an on­go­ing pan­demic haven’t done much to dampen the hopes of Illi­nois gam­blers look­ing to score a few bucks.

The state’s 10 casi­nos are lim­ited to half ca­pac­ity in the age of COVID-19, but they still raked in about three-quar­ters of the cash they did for a com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod last year, be­fore the virus slashed ad­mis­sions.

And the loom­ing specter of the coron­avirus cer­tainly hasn’t scared off bet­tors from re­turn­ing to the thou­sands of slot ma­chines that have been turned back on at bars, gas sta­tions and other es­tab­lish­ments — and which have gob­bled up 24% more dol­lars than they did last July.

That’s ac­cord­ing to the lat­est rev­enue re­ports from the Illi­nois Gam­ing Board, the reg­u­la­tor that is­sued guide­lines for gam­bling op­er­a­tions to re­sume July 1 with health pre­cau­tions in place fol­low­ing an un­prece­dented three-month shut­down un­der Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home or­der.

The casi­nos racked up about $82.6 mil­lion as peo­ple made more than 483,000 trips through their turn­stiles dur­ing the first month back.

That’s down about 29% com­pared with July 2019, when the house won about $115.8 mil­lion with al­most dou­ble the ad­mis­sions: about 931,000.

The 50% ca­pac­ity limit set by the Gam­ing Board hasn’t been an is­sue for most casi­nos, and they’ve had only a hand­ful of is­sues with cus­tomers re­fus­ing to wear face cov­er­ings, ac­cord­ing to Illi­nois Casino Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Tom Swoik.

For an in­dus­try that was brought to a full stop, “no­body had a clue” what to ex­pect upon re­open­ing, but the first-month num­bers are “some­what bet­ter” than many were ex­pect­ing, Swoik said.

“Some peo­ple were hes­i­tant on com­ing back, but now that they’ve seen how we’re tak­ing care of things, more will keep com­ing back,” he said. “Those num­bers will keep go­ing up.”

It’s not clear how long it’ll take for num­bers to get back to nor­mal, if they ever do. Some casi­nos are an­tic­i­pat­ing their rev­enue will be about half of usual lev­els the rest of the year, Swoik said.

So far, for­tunes have var­ied by casino — but they’re all down. The state’s most lu­cra­tive, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, took an 18% rev­enue hit, tak­ing in $30.3 mil­lion this July, down from about $37 mil­lion last July.

But Jumer’s Casino in Rock Is­land suf­fered the largest set­back, with $2.7 mil­lion in rev­enue dur­ing the month mark­ing a 56% de­cline from the $6.2 mil­lion it col­lected in July 2019.

Num­bers are trend­ing the other way for the 35,680 slot ma­chines that are in­stalled at 7,137 es­tab­lish­ments out­side casi­nos statewide, though. Gam­blers lost $166.1 mil­lion to them in the first month af­ter the Gam­ing Board gave op­er­a­tors the green light to re­sume.

RIVERS CASINO

The gam­ing floor of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, pic­tured be­fore it re­opened July 1, fol­low­ing a three­month shut­down due to the pan­demic.

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