When Will Michigan Casinos Reopen During COVID-19 Pandemic?

Written By Matt Schoch on May 14, 2020
Michigan casinos reopen

The Hannahville Indian Community caused a stir in Michigan this month with an announcement the Island Resort and Casino would reopen last week.

A false start and a meeting with state power brokers later, the tribe is now targeting Saturday for Michigan’s first casino reopening after nearly eight full weeks of closed doors across the state.

All of Michigan’s 26 casinos were closed by March 22 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the state harder than most.

Now with death and infection rates trending downward, state leaders are figuring out the best ways forward.

For some in the state’s gaming industry, that means opening up their doors sooner rather than later.

Promising COVID-19 trends statewide

Michigan has been one of the hardest-hit states during the pandemic, as the death toll passed 4,700 on Wednesday, fourth-most of any state.

Wednesday was the fifth-straight day with fewer than 500 new cases statewide though. Plus, the most recent numbers have indicated that less than 10% of COVID-19 tests have been returning positive for nearly two weeks.

A third protest is planned for the Michigan Capitol on Thursday in Lansing to demonstrate against stay-at-home restrictions put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Whitmer’s current order is set to expire on May 28. Detroit’s Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino will be closed until at least then, and many of the state’s tribal casinos have followed Whitmer’s lead on reopening dates.

Reopening announcement forced letter, meeting

After Island Resort and Casino announced it would reopen on May 8, state officials took action, according to a report from Bridge Magazine.

A letter from the office of Attorney General Dana Nessel warned action could be taken against customers or employees of tribal casinos that opened while there was a stay-at-home order in place.

The Hannahville tribe delayed the opening until Saturday and a conference call was scheduled this week between tribal leaders and state officials about reopenings.

A spokesman for the state’s largest tribal casino confirmed that meeting took place this week.

Frank Cloutier said the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe would be working with the governor on reopening Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant with plans coming later.

Upper Peninsula casinos trending toward opening

Island Resort and Casino is one of 11 closed casinos in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Here is a list with updated information about the status of each of the facilities:

  • Bay Mills Resort & Casinos, Brimley: An announcement Wednesday said the pair of casinos, both operated by the Bay Mills Indian Community, “would be continuing our shutdown through the end of May. “As June approaches, we will evaluate where our region stands and assess when would be the right time to start back up,” the statement said. Earlier in the day, the casino had been closed “pending review,” which was scheduled for Saturday.
  • Kewadin Casinos, five locations: The five casinos, located in Christmas, Hessel, Manistique, Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace, will be closed until June 1.

  • Island Resort and Casino, Harris: Planning Saturday reopening.
  • Northern Waters Casino Resort, Watersmeet: There have been no updates about the casino opening since its scheduled May 1 reopening was postponed on April 25. The facility’s golf course is open, and the sports bar is available for takeout.
  • Ojibwa Casinos, Baraga and Marquette: No reopening dates are set.

No Lower Peninsula casinos have reopening dates

There are 12 tribal casinos south of the Mackinac Bridge and none of them had announced dates for reopening on Wednesday.

The latest updates:

  • FireKeepers Casino, Battle Creek: No reopening date set.
  • Four Winds Casinos, Dowagiac, Hartford, New Buffalo: No reopening date set.
  • Gun Lake Casino, Wayland: No reopening date set.
  • Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge, Peshawbestown: No reopening date has been set, but safety guidelines have been released.

  • Little River Casino Resort, Manistee: The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has its own executive order through May 28, declaring a state of emergency, keeping the casino closed through then.
  • Odawa Casinos, Mackinaw City and Petoskey: In a May 1 statement, General Manager Ron Olson acknowledged the governor’s current stay-at-home order and said “we will follow this order and remain closed until further notice.”
  • Saganing Eagles Landing Casino & Hotel, Standish: No reopening date set
  • Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, Mount Pleasant: No reopening date set
  • Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, Williamsburg: No reopening date has been set, but safety guidelines have been released

MGM Grand Detroit unveils safety precautions

The trio of commercial casinos in Detroit are under Whitmer’s authority and cannot open until after May 28.

Even so, under the governor’s Safe Start plan, the three casinos would only open after getting past the current “Flattening” phase.

For now, MGM Resorts International released its Seven-Point Safety Plan, which the Detroit casino will adhere to.

The points include:

  1. Screening, Temperature Checks and Employee Training
  2. Mandatory Masks & Personal Protective Equipment
  3. Physical Distancing
  4. Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitation
  5. HVAC Controls and Air Quality
  6. Incident Response Protocols
  7. Digital Innovations

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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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