Indiana Casinos Remain Open With Restrictions Heading Into 2021

Posted on December 30, 2020

Indiana’s retail casinos have had all sorts of hoops to jump through since the beginning of the pandemic.

Things have changed a lot for the industry since COVID-19 entered the picture.

With new rules and regulations coming out every few weeks, it’s been an up and down year for the casinos in the Hoosier State.

Indiana casinos close for three months

March 16 was the first day that the pandemic made its mark on Indiana casinos.

The Indiana Gaming Commission ordered a shutdown of all of the state’s properties. Those closures were originally going to last for two weeks, but ended up being extended a handful of times.

Casinos finally reopened for business on June 15, after nearly three months of closed doors.

During that time, online sports betting became the industry’s only source of gambling income in Indiana. Since Indiana doesn’t have online casinos yet, there were no other gambling options in the state.

The downtime led to millions of dollars of lost revenue and layoffs for some casino workers around the state.

Things started to rebound over the summer once the later stages of Gov. Holcomb’s reopening plan got underway.

Gov. Holcomb’s Back On Track plan

The “Back On Track” plan was Indiana’s original COVID response from March-July.

That plan had five stages that progressed as the year went on.

By the time casinos reopened throughout the state, Indiana was already in stage four of the reopening plan.

That meant casinos were only open at half capacity to start. There were also all sorts of new rules for things like how many players could be at a blackjack table and how often surfaces needed to be sanitized.

However, some of the rules were hardly ironclad. Loopholes in the rules for smoking and drinking indoors created some friction between casinos and their employees.

Although casinos eventually sorted out most of those problems, the industry’s year helped show that big transitions hardly ever go off without a hitch. Dealing with a pandemic was new territory for everyone. It took some on-the-fly thinking to bring things back to near-normal status.

Eventually, Gov. Holcomb extended that final stage of his reopening plan for several more weeks. That brought the casino industry up to the standards that are still governing it today.

New COVID rules for Indiana casinos

The current COVID plan for Indiana also determines the rules for the state’s casinos.

That set of rules governs the state on a county-county basis, rather than using a blanket set of regulations for the entire state. Each casino is bound by the same set of rules as the county that it exists in.

The system color-codes counties based on their spread of COVID-19.

  • Blue Counties: Low COVID spread, things are doing great
  • Yellow Counties: Moderate community spread
  • Orange Counties: High level of COVID spread
  • Red Counties: Danger! Very high levels of community COVID spread

Unfortunately, Indiana is one of the biggest COVID hotspots in the country right now. Because of that, all of the state’s 92 counties are either in orange or red territory.

Casinos in orange and red counties must have special areas for eating, drinking and smoking. There is no more drinking or smoking while at a slot machine or any other game inside casinos.

If a county moves into the red, casinos have to decrease capacity by an additional 15%.

That county color map is updated every Wednesday.

These rules will guide the casino industry into 2021 unless Gov. Holcomb makes some surprise changes to the plan.

Retail casinos have had a rollercoaster of a year with all of the constant changes, but things are finally looking up. The further we get into 2021, the more things will finally start to feel like normal again.

Photo by Dreamstime
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a US Gambling Industry Analyst for Catena Media. He specializes in Midwest sports betting and casino content. Prior to covering the legal gambling industry, he spent time as a professional sports writer, reporting on teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. Garza is currently working as a Managing Editor for PlayIndiana and PlayOhio, with previous stops at other well-known brands such as PlayIllinois and PlayMichigan. He has been covering the gambling industry since 2019, and currently works with a team of other journalists to provide comprehensive coverage of the legal U.S. gambling industry.

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