Michigan Casino Reopening Dates Continue To Be Pushed Back

Written By Matt Schoch on March 24, 2020
Michigan casino craps table

With her executive order on Monday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer pushed the reopening of the Detroit casinos further down the road to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus.

Michigan residents have a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” directive from the governor through April 13 that will push the reopening of MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino and MotorCity Casino to at least that time.

Though the state’s 23 tribal casinos are not subject to the orders of state or federal governments, their tentative dates could be pushed back as well.

No definite reopening dates for Michigan casino locations

All 26 Michigan casinos are closed, with all tribal casinos closing voluntarily last week, setting on or near April 1 for potential reopening.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

“We are not at a point to announce a target reopen date yet,” wrote Amber Ballard, public relations rep for FireKeepers in Battle Creek, in an email Monday to Playinmichigan. “We’re watching the situation closely, hoping that the curve will flatten and we can return soon.”

The timing of the coronavirus closures could not have been worse as sports betting was permitted in the Detroit casinos on March 11 with openings at MGM Grand and Greektown. Later that night, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive test for coronavirus was confirmed and the NBA’s season was suspended.

The following morning, MotorCity Casino opened its FanDuel Sportsbook with Lions legend Barry Sanders kicking off the festivities shortly before the rest of the college basketball season was canceled.

Tribal casinos closed for at least another week

Many tribal casinos have announced plans for their own sportsbooks this spring.

When they voluntarily closed, some Upper Peninsula tribal casinos announced tentative dates to resume gaming, though none Monday had been updated since Whitmer’s executive order.

The five Kewadin Casino locations and Island Resort Casino in Harris are closed through April 6, and Bay Mills Resort and Casino and Kings Club in Brimley plan to be closed through April 10. Northern Waters in Watersmeet will close until April 11, and the Ojibwa Casinos in Marquette and Baraga are closed through April 12.

Across the Lower Peninsula, Odawa Casino locations in Petoskey and Mackinaw City, Little River in Manistee, and a trio of Four Winds Casino locations in southwest Michigan are closed through March 30.

An announcement on the closures of Leelanau Sands in Peshawbestown and Turtle Creek by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians indicated a reopening “on or around March 30.”

Gun Lake in Wayland was originally scheduled to open on March 30. However, an extension of the closure to April 13 was announced on Friday, with full compensation for employees promised during that time.

“In the midst of this worldwide crisis, the Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Authority along with Gun Lake Casino management have been working diligently to uphold our commitment to our team members and the community,” said Sal Semola, president and chief operating officer for Gun Lake Casino, in a news release.

“We truly look forward to continuing to provide the ultimate entertainment experience in West Michigan, and we will do so as soon as it is safe. For now, our priority focus is to continue to take care of our team members, providing our guests with vital updates, and monitoring this sensitive situation.”

Though the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe did not announce tentative opening dates for Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant or Saganing Eagles Landing in Standish.

Soaring Eagle has announced rescheduled concert dates for Dustin Lynch and Travis Dennings (July 5), Sebastian Maniscalco (July 11), Keith Urban (July 18) and Chris Tucker (Aug. 8).

Michigan under stay-at-home orders

The long legislative process to legalize sports gambling in Michigan ended when Whitmer signed gambling expansion bills into law on Dec. 20, 2019.

According to Whitmer, as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, MI residents must stay home unless they are “critical infrastructure workers.” Exceptions such as outdoor recreation, grocery runs, medical reasons or necessary government still will be allowed.

The coronavirus conundrum for casinos in Michigan is similar to issues across the country. Casinos in Colorado, for example, still have a May 1 launch date for sports betting in the state.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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