By Rich Exner, cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos must shut down or keep the total number of people in the buildings, including employees, under 100, as part of the state’s effort to contain spread of coronavirus, the state ordered Friday.
The announcement came late Friday, one day after Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order banning most gatherings of 100 or more people.
MGM Northfield Park then announced that it would suspend operations at midnight. JACK Cleveland Casino and JACK Thistledown Racino in North Randall followed with closing announcements later in the evening, joining others across the state in doing the same.
All 11 facilities were open Friday, but late in the day, the governor’s spokesman, Dan Tierney, confirmed that the gaming facilities were included in the directive.
Then later Friday night, the Casino Control Commission released a directive, saying the casinos must comply by midnight and submit plans about how they intended to do so. A spokeswoman said the limit of 100 applied to the total number of employees and customers.
“The governor was clear that the order applies to casinos,” Tierney emailed in response to questions from cleveland.com, adding that the same was true for racinos.
The announcement came the same day the state reported at least 13 people have tested positive for coronavirus, with officials saying many more likely have it.
The facilities are large places that attract a lot of people, with 19,000 slot machines and 400 gambling tables across the state. In 2019, the industry took in a record $1.94 billion in gambling revenue, after paying out winnings.
MGM Northfield Park is Ohio’s busiest racino, operating 2,200 slots-like video lottery terminals. JACK Thistledown in North Randall has just under 1,500 machines. There are 130 tables and 1,330 slots at JACK’s downtown Cleveland property.
MGM Chief Operating Officer and President Bill Hornbuckle issued a statement promising “to mitigate the impact on our employees and partners. We will monitor this rapidly changing situation and will keep everyone informed as decisions are made to reopen in the future.”
Ohio’s other casinos are Hollywood-branded operations in Columbus and Toledo, plus JACK Cincinnati Casino, which JACK Entertainment sold last year. It will eventually be rebranded as the Hard Rock Casino.
The other racinos are Belterra Park in Cincinnati, Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs in Columbus, Hollywood Gaming Dayton, Hollywood Mahoning Valley, and Miami Valley Gaming in Lebanon, just north of Cincinnati.
The directive comes at a time in which Ohio’s gambling industry had been off to a record start to the year. Gambling revenue at the 11 facilities, after paying out winnings, was up 14.6% this year through February to $338.9 million.
Virus concerns had already touched the casino industry elsewhere.
Macau, an autonomous region of China, ordered all its casinos closed for 15 days in February, though they have since reopened. Among those closed was MGM Macau.
MGM Resorts said earlier this week that it would temporarily close buffets at its Las Vegas properties – ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor and Excalibur – on Sunday, but did not extend that closing to Northfield Park.