More casinos in Michigan could be opening their doors soon after a new directive from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday.
Though the state’s tribal casinos can already be reopened by the sovereign tribes that operate them, Whitmer’s announcement about the partial reopening of the state could spur them on.
The governor announced Monday that bars and restaurants in the Upper Peninsula and 17 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula will have relief from restrictions starting Friday.
Today, I signed an Executive Order that loosens some restrictions in MERC Regions 6 & 8 (Upper Peninsula & Traverse City areas). Starting this Friday, these regions can reopen:
▪️Restaurants/bars with limited seating
▪️Office work that cannot be done remotely. pic.twitter.com/kja6gekUeE
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 18, 2020
That means 16 of the state’s 26 casinos will be in areas where bars and restaurants are free to open just in time for Memorial Day weekend. The holiday traditionally signals the start of summer, and is a cue for many Michiganians to open seasonal residences “Up North.”
Gov. Whitmer partially reopens 2 of state’s 8 regions
Whitmer’s announcement impacted the U.P. and the Traverse City Region.
The plan would reopen many businesses, including bars and restaurants, which will be at a maximum 50% capacity. Those businesses are also required to train employees on safety protocol and keep groups 6 feet from one another. Masks are still required.
“This is a big step, and it’s right before the holiday weekend,” Whitmer said at Monday press briefing. “I want to encourage everyone to stay smart and stay safe. Keep your wits about you. Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure.”
Social gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted in the reopened regions, although overnight lodging is not.
Which Michigan casinos could be reopen next?
Eleven of Michigan’s 23 tribal casinos are north of the Mackinac Bridge in the U.P.
It remains to be seen how many of the 10 others will follow the lead of Island Resort and Casino in Harris, which reopened Saturday.
The five Kewadin Casinos throughout the U.P. are planning a June 1 reopening. The other five U.P. casinos – two Ojibwa Casinos locations in the western U.P., the Bay Mills casinos in Brimley, and Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet – have not announced reopening plans.
In addition, there are five Lower Peninsula casinos in counties that were impacted by Monday’s announcement.
They are: Leelanau Sands Casino in Peshawbestown, Little River Casino and Resort in Manistee, Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel in Williamsburg, and Odawa Casinos in Mackinaw City and Petoskey.
None of them had announced reopening dates as of Monday afternoon.
Tribes and state officials working together
Seven other tribal casinos statewide and the three commercial casinos in Detroit are in areas un-impacted by Monday’s announcement.
As of Monday afternoon, none of those tribal casinos had announced reopening dates.
A representative of the state’s largest tribal casino, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, told PlayMichigan last week that a meeting between Whitmer and tribal leaders about reopening casinos went well.
Frank Cloutier, a spokesman for the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, said the tribe would work with the governor’s office on a reopening plan.
Detroit casinos still closed indefinitely
The Detroit casinos are subject to Whitmer’s Stay Home order, which closes businesses like casinos through at least May 28.
The commercial properties could be closed longer, and when they do open, there may be restrictions on capacity.
Last week, MGM Resorts International released a Seven-Point Plan for properties such as MGM Grand Detroit to reopen.
In addition, Greektown Casino-Hotel parent company Penn National Gaming has announced measures being taken to reopen properties safely.
Promising COVID-19 numbers throughout Michigan
Michigan reported only double-digit deaths from the coronavirus for the ninth straight day.
Numbers are usually down on Mondays, but the 24 reported deaths were among the lowest in the past two months.
The state is seventh in the nation in COVID-19 cases and fourth for deaths with 4,915 total, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.