Michigan Tribal Casino Re-Closes After COVID-19 Spike In Upper Peninsula

Posted on August 14, 2020 - Last Updated on August 18, 2020

A Michigan tribal casino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has temporarily re-closed because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Northern Waters Casino in Watersmeet, near the Wisconsin border, closed Aug. 5 with plans to reopen a week later after a “cooling-off period.”

However, less than 24 hours before Thursday’s scheduled reopening, Northern Waters announced it would remain closed indefinitely.

Northern Waters is operated by the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, one of 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan.

Upper Peninsula experiencing COVID-19 spike

As of Thursday, Michigan reported 735 confirmed coronavirus cases in the Upper Peninsula, including 18 deaths. There were also 96 probable cases.

Watersmeet’s Gogebic County has had a recent spike, reaching 100 cumulative cases this month. That number was at 122 on Thursday, including one death.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Northern Waters Casino General Manager Michael J. Broderick said there was no planned reopening date.

“This decision was not… easy,” Broderick wrote. “It was one that considered the ever-changing situation that we and the community as a whole is in with the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent number of cases in the area.”

Northern Waters closed for just two months in spring

Northern Waters was one of Michigan’s final casinos to close on March 21 because of the spreading virus.

Then, it was Michigan’s second casino of 26 to reopen on May 22.

“At this time, we do not have a specific date to reopen but will let you know when that date is as soon as we can. And when we say ‘soon,’ we mean it!” Broderick wrote. “We know how much you miss your favorite place to play in the UP and we want to make sure it continues to be a ‘safe bet,’ plus we really miss you too!”

All but one of the state’s 23 tribal casinos reopened before the trio of casinos in Detroit reopened last week in southeast Michigan.

According to the COVID-19 Casino Tracker compiled by the American Gaming Association, 139 casinos were closed (14.0%) nationwide Thursday, while 851 were open.

Meanwhile, the tribe’s Lac Vieux Desert Golf Course, as well as the convenience store and service station, will remain open for now.

Northern Waters is not the first Midwest casino to reopen and then close again. For one, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh closed for two days and then reopened on July 10 after an uptick in western Pennsylvania cases.

PointsBet sportsbook coming later in Watersmeet

The Lac Vieux Desert tribe was one of Michigan’s first to announce a sportsbook partnership after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed expanded gambling laws late in 2019, permitting sports betting.

PointsBet has partnered with the tribe for its online gambling operations in Michigan.

In addition to mobile sports betting, the partnership includes the Australian company’s first plans to launch an online casino. The Jan. 6 announcement also indicated the tribe and PointsBet were in negotiations for a retail sportsbook.

Online gambling is expected to launch in Michigan later this year.

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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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