Indiana Casinos Remain Open With New Restrictions, For Now

Posted on November 19, 2020

Casinos are on edge as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise around the country.

That’s certainly the case in Indiana, where record-high numbers of positive tests are coming in weekly.

Those rising numbers have forced the Indiana Gaming Commission to issue a new slate of rules for the state’s casinos. The latest rules will help keep casinos compliant with Indiana’s new COVID plan.

Indiana’s new COVID plan

Indiana has been following Gov. Holcomb’sBack on Track” plan since the start of the pandemic. That plan provided guidelines for when restaurants, casinos and other public spots could open, and at what capacity.

The Hoosier State recently ditched that plan in favor of a county by county approach.

The new plan color-codes individual counties based on the number of new COVID cases.

Blue counties are doing great, yellow are in the moderate range, orange counties are in an alarming spot and red counties are in trouble. As of Nov. 18, every single Indiana county is now either orange or red, except for Putnam county and its yellow status.

The color map is updated every Wednesday with new data from the previous week.

Now with the new system in place, casinos have some extra hoops to jump through.

Indiana’s new coronavirus rules for casinos

Indiana’s casinos have had all sorts of new rules to follow since reopening in June.

Things like temperature checks and face masks have been the norm since then, but now casino goers will have a few more changes to deal with.

For example, until now, gamblers could remove their masks to drink, eat or smoke in Indiana’s casinos.

That led to some friction at places like Caesars Southern Indiana, since gamblers could go without masks for extended periods of time, as long as they had a drink sitting next to them.

Caesars Southern eventually banned eating, drinking and smoking on the casino floor to alleviate the situation.

The gaming commission’s new rules take things a step further.

Casinos in orange and red counties have to section off new areas for socially distant eating, drinking and smoking. In other words, no more taking off your mask to sip a drink at a slot machine.

Since 91 of the state’s 92 counties are orange or red right now, that rule is basically a blanket mandate for all of the state’s casinos.

If a casino is in a red county, then the maximum capacity for the building automatically decreases by 15%.

Right now, that applies to Hollywood Lawrenceburg in red Dearborn County.

Lake County’s Ameristar East Chicago, Horseshoe Hammond, and Majestic Star Casinos are in the same boat.

Indiana casinos are still open for now

At least for now, casinos throughout Indiana will remain open.

Another shut down is the last thing the industry wants, so the gaming commission is hoping these new rules will help keep future problems at bay.

The three-month shutdown earlier this year led to a lot of permanent layoffs for workers, so avoiding round two is certainly a big focus for the gaming industry.

To help with that, casinos only have 24 hours to comply with the new rules if their county gets bumped up to orange or red status.

On the other side of things, even if a county dips into a better color category like yellow or blue, the county will have to stay at that color for at least two weeks before casinos in the area can remove the extra restrictions.

There may be some extra precautions for casino workers and gamblers, but the goal is to keep everyone safe.

Indiana is sticking with this plan for the time being. However, things might change over the coming weeks if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise.

At least for now, keep an eye on what color your county is to know if your go-to casino will have extra restrictions.

Photo by Associated Press
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Jake Garza

Jake Garza is a sports writer based in Indianapolis, IN. He's an Indiana University graduate who's spent time as a sports reporter covering teams at the prep, collegiate and professional levels.

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