Michigan casinos reopen, but live poker rooms remain closed

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: August 06, 2020 04:35 PDT

Casinos reopen with restrictions, but live poker isn't back yet

After nearly five months shuttered in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan's commercial casinos got the green light to reopen for business Wednesday. The casinos can only operate under limited capacity conditions, however, and live poker rooms must remain closed for now.

Michigan hosts three Detroit-area commercial casinos, all with live poker rooms on the properties. The three casinos include MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Greektown Casino.

The poker rooms inside the three commercial properties form the hub of the Detroit live poker scene, but all must stay shut down for now. Other conditions related to Michigan's reopening commercial casinos include a ban on smoking, valet parking, and buffets.

Five-month hiatus for Michigan's commercial casinos

Michigan stands among the last US states with a legal casino industry to allow those properties to reopen. The Michigan Gaming Control Board ordered the three Detroit casino properties to shut down all operations on March 15.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary closure of all commercial and tribal casinos across the US in mid-march. The shutdowns affected all of the more than 1,000 casino properties in the country.

Commercial casinos across the US closed their doors in response to orders by state lawmakers. Tribal casinos don't fall under the same legal jurisdiction as commercial properties, but all tribal casinos in the US ceased business for at least a two-month period as well.

Some tribal properties began to reopen as early as May, including some of Michigan's 23 tribally-owned casinos. Commercial casinos in states like Louisiana followed suit with reopenings in May.

States with large casino markets began to resume business again in June, but with restrictions. Nevada casinos reopened on June 4, while Atlantic City properties reopened a full month later, on July 2.

While many US states allowed casinos to resume business, the lockdown on Michigan's commercial casinos remained.

No date set on the return of live poker in Michigan

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order in late July that stated Michigan's three Detroit-based commercial casinos could reopen on August 5. Whitmer is enforcing restrictions on those reopenings, however, which were set by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Those restrictions dictate that Detroit-area casinos can only operate at 15% capacity. Other changes include a ban on all smoking inside the casinos, with smoking only allowed in designated outdoor areas.

Alcohol can still be served, but sitting at the bar isn't allowed. Buffets and valet parking services are also a no-go for now.

Most importantly for poker players, however, is the continued shut down of live poker rooms. No date is set on when poker rooms at MGM Grand, Greektown Casino, and MotorCity Casino Hotel might be allowed to resume operations.

Tribal casinos don't fall under Gov. Whitmer's jurisdiction. As of Wednesday, live poker rooms at tribal properties like FireKeepers Casino, Gun Lake Casino, Soaring Eagle Casino Resort, and Odawa Casino all remain shuttered.

Michigan's live poker situation is similar to the one in states like Pennsylvania, which allowed casinos to reopen but mandated that poker rooms must stay closed. Some live poker rooms are back in business in states like Nevada and Florida.