Detroit Casinos Hope To Reopen Poker, But There Is Potential Pushback

Written By Matt Schoch on September 15, 2020 - Last Updated on September 16, 2020
Michigan COVID-19 Policy Changes

After the COVID-19 pandemic closed Michigan casinos this March, tribal casinos were the first to reopen their doors.

The first Michigan tribal casino reopened on May 16 in the Upper Peninsula as Island Resort & Casino in Harris was closed less than two months.

It wasn’t until Aug. 5 that someone placed a bet in a Detroit casino. That was more than four months after the pandemic closed casinos statewide in mid-March.

Revenue for Detroit’s casinos was down 62% through August compared to 2019, though the addition of sports betting could help soften that blow going forward.

However, a couple of news items last week indicated that maybe the tide has shifted a bit. While Detroit casinos may be looking to loosen restrictions as soon as possible, it’s the tribes who have been clamping down.

Detroit casinos hope to open poker rooms soon

MotorCity Casino announced in social media promotional materials last week, and reportedly in a mass emailing, that it would reopen its poker room this week.

The announcement took the Michigan Gaming Control Board by surprise, according to The Detroit News.

The closure of poker rooms in the Detroit casinos is part of the reopening guidelines set forth by the board, which were cited by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as requirements for their reopenings last month.

Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean told the News casinos would need board approval to reopen poker rooms.

MotorCity Casino took down the social media announcements and were backing off the timeline on Tuesday.

“We continue to work with the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and look forward to welcoming back our poker players when we are able to do so,” MotorCity Casino President Bruce Dall said in a statement to PlayMichigan.

MotorCity Casino did extend the hours for FanDuel Sportsbook attendants to 9 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week.

Tribal casinos not allowing certain masks

Meanwhile, the state’s largest tribal casino is among those tightening facial covering requirements for guests.

Soaring Eagle Casino Resort in Mount Pleasant and Saganing Eagles Landing in Standish are cracking down on masks.

Starting Monday, the mid-Michigan casinos are not allowing bandanas, masks with ventilation valves, and neck gaiters as coverings.

“Our two casino properties are making this change in conjunction with recently updated CDC recommendations for face masks,” an announcement said. “We appreciate your patience during these times.”

Turtle Creek banned smoking recently

In addition, Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg, near Traverse City, recently banned smoking.

Smoking was banned Aug. 31 in all indoor areas, including the casino gaming floor.

Its sister facility, Leelanau Sands Casino up the peninsula in Peshawbestown, was already smoke-free.

Though they are not required to follow Whitmer’s orders, some tribal casinos in northern Michigan have gone smoke-free.

Turtle Creek and Leelanau Sands also will soon offer sports betting in a partnership with William Hill, they have announced.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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