First Casino Reopening Coming Friday To Michigan’s Lower Peninsula

Posted on May 20, 2020 - Last Updated on May 22, 2020

Michigan casino reopenings are spreading to the Lower Peninsula.

One gaming facility is already open in the Upper Peninsula and another has already been announced plans to reopen Friday.

That same day, the Odawa Casino location in Mackinaw City will become the first Lower Peninsula casino to open.

The Odawa location would be the third of Michigan’s 26 casinos to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic closed them all by March 22.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians operates the casino, which is one of the state’s 12 federally recognized and sovereign tribes.

Odawa Mackinaw opens Friday; Petoskey next week

The Odawa casinos announced Wednesday the Mackinaw City location will open at 10 a.m. Friday, and the Petoskey location will open at 10 a.m. May 29.

The announcement of the openings come two days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a partial reopening for much of northern Michigan on Friday. Monday’s announcement partially reopened the U.P. and the Traverse City Region, which includes both Odawa locations.

Whitmer announced Monday that bars and restaurants, at a maximum of 50% capacity, can reopen Friday in the regions. The news comes just in time for Memorial Day weekend, an important holiday for the region’s tourism economy.

Odawa will start taking reservations on June 1 for its hotel reopening on June 11 at the Petoskey location.

On Thursday night, Little River Casino in Manistee announced is would open at 8 a.m. June 1.

Tribes, state officials appear to be cooperating

Though Michigan’s Native American tribes are not subject to Whitmer’s orders, state officials and tribal leaders have discussed reopening timelines and strategies after some public consternation.

An initial reopening at Island Resort and Casino was postponed after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel threatened “potential civil and criminal penalties.”

Even after the parties discussed reopening, a U.P. congressman introduced a resolution to reaffirm the sovereignty of tribal nations. It also rebukes Nessel’s “veiled-threat” against the Hannahville Indian Community.

Safety precautions coming for Odawa openings

Like other properties, Odawa announced an extensive list of safety precautions being taken, including temperature checks for team members and guests upon arrival, social distancing practices, a mask requirement and no smoking.

“Things will look a bit different when our doors open, and we will be reopening in phases,” Odawa General Manager Ron Olson said in a statement. “The phased reopening follows the guidance of public health professionals.”

The Mackinaw location admits only those 21 and older, while the Petoskey location admits 19 and older.

The Petoskey location will open table games with limited seating.

Pair will be fourth reopened Michigan casinos

In the U.P., Island Resort and Casino in Harris opened on Saturday. Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet is also scheduled to open on Friday.

Five Kewadin Casino locations are scheduled to open June 1 in the U.P., and a pair of Bay Mills casino locations in Brimley have announced they will be closed through May.

Detroit’s three commercial casinos are subject to Whitmer’s latest statewide order. Moreover, it encourages much of the state’s businesses to remain closed at least until May 28.

Across the nation, 100 casinos were open Wednesday afternoon and 889 were closed, according to the COVID-19 Casino Tracker on the American Gaming Association website.

State’s COVID-19 numbers continue positive trends

Michigan passed the 5,000 mark this week in COVID-19 deaths, and the numbers continue a positive trend.

On Wednesday, 43 new deaths were announced from the pandemic, though that’s a relatively low number for the state compared to the last couple of months.

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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 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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