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Coronavirus “Stage 5” Doesn’t Alter Restrictions at Casinos

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Nearly all capacity restrictions on businesses have been lifted across the state — but there are still restrictions on casinos.

Governor Holcomb’s “Stage 5” order lifting limits on restaurants and bars doesn’t apply to casinos, which answer to the Indiana Gaming Commission. The commission shut down casinos a week before the rest of the state went into lockdown in March. The commission laid out five pages of virus protocols before casinos reopened in June, and except for a revision six weeks later to incorporate Governor Holcomb’s mask order, those rules are still in place, with no firm timeline for loosening them.

The commission’s guidelines cap casinos at half capacity, the same limit bars faced until Saturday. The agency says it’s reviewing Holcomb’s reopening order to assess how it should affect its guidance to casinos, and will talk with casinos seeking more leeway. Casino Association of Indiana president Matt Bell says casinos are “very satisfied and content” with the regulations, which he boasts are among the nation’s strongest health protections for gamblers.

Bell says it makes sense to have stricter limits on casinos than on restaurants and bars, since the casinos draw visitors not just from the local community, but all over. And Bell says a significant percentage of casino regulars fall into high-risk groups for the virus, because of age or underlying health conditions.

Despite the limitations, Bell says customers have returned to the gaming floor, though revenue for the summer was down 11% compared to last year.

Along with the capacity limit, the commission’s requirements for casinos ban live poker rooms, and require social distancing between slot machines and the seats at table games. Employees must have their temperature checked daily, and gamblers are questioned on arrival about whether they’ve had any symptoms.

Along with adding the mask mandate, the July revision deleted specific requirements for disinfecting dice and cards, replacing them with a requirement that casinos make “every effort” to disinfect equipment between players. Bell says there’s been little practical change there, because casinos were required to submit detailed plans for complying with the general requirements.

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