Michigan closes casinos ahead of COVID second wave

Jon Pill
Posted on: November 18, 2020 06:00 PST

Michigan is set to close its casinos again as they brace themselves for a second spike of COVID-19 over Christmas.

Some people are hoping the closure of the brick-and-mortar sites will speed up the legalization of interstate online poker. A bill doing just that has been crawling through the legislature for months. It is currently not expected to be put into law until well into 2021. Losing tax revenue from Detroit's three casinos may help push the bill over the hump.

The state reported 12,651 new cases yesterday (November 16th). Since late October, Michigan has been seeing a few thousand new cases daily. There are currently tens of deaths per day, with the numbers rising. That rate is expected to rocket up over the next few weeks since deaths lag a couple of weeks behind new cases.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tweeted about the state's shutdown saying, "Tonight, @MichiganHHSissued an emergency order that enacts a three-week pause, targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities to curb our state’s rising #COVID19 infection rates."

Michigan blues

Michigan has had one of the more aggressive COVID responses. Their spike was short and sharp. But lately, the state has struggled to keep a handle on coronavirus levels. Cold weather and a population crowded around the few main cities are part of the problem. As is the Great Lakes shipping industry, which moves folks back and forth across state lines in large, potentially infectious groups.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said to the press, “indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread. Sharply limiting them is our focus.”

So, the new shutdown targets businesses like restaurants and casinos where people gather.

The whole state has limited gambling options to begin with. Just three casinos, all of them in Detroit. These casinos shut their doors for far longer than some other businesses. Management mothballed the tables from early-March to late-August.

Some folks are hoping that the loss in tax revenue might speed up the pending plan to introduce trans-state online poker to Michigan. That would be a net win for poker players in the state, saving lives and legalizing online poker.

Many other businesses will remain open such as hair salons and pre-schools.

“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve, and saved thousands of lives together. Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, frontline workers, and small businesses,” tweeted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Back to normal

“The data we are seeing is alarming,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “COVID-19 is impacting every area of our state. Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up.”

Dr. Khaldun drove home the stakes for such a shutdown, saying, "If we do not act now, we risk thousands of more deaths, and even more people having long-term health consequences. The actions we are taking today are the best opportunity we have to get this virus under control.”

This hasn't prevented criticism. The impact on the economy has been brutal. Detroit's automobile manufacturing industry shuttered along with the casinos in the last lockdown. In a city like Detroit, that comes with a very real financial impact on some of the state's poorest people.

States like Michigan are having to make tough choices, balancing lives against livelihoods.

One thing is certain though, the more people comply with the shutdown the shorter and more effective it will be.

So wear your masks and stay home, folks.

Featured image source: Twitter