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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Casino City’s Friday Five: Starting to reopen edition

15 May 2020

By Dan Ippolito
Many gamblers have their eyes set on Las Vegas for when casinos begin to reopen. In the meantime, other U.S. states are making great strides and started welcoming back guests. Even though land-based gaming has been put on hold for the last couple of months, online casinos continue to soar, especially in New Jersey.

Also this week, we have a massive jackpot won at River Belle Online Casino and sports wagering in South Dakota and Louisiana to be determined by voters in the fall.

Let’s begin with the big Mega Moolah jackpot:

5. River Belle Casino player hits massive Mega Moolah jackpot
On 8 May, Microgaming’s Mega Moolah progressive jackpot awarded €7,784,425 to a player on River Belle Online Casino on the Atlantean Treasures Mega Moolah slot. The player will be receiving the winnings in a lump sum.

This slot was released at the end of February and has already given out 45 major jackpots, totaling over €14 million in payouts. Microgaming’s jackpot network has reached €1.1 billion.

The 5x3-reel, 10-payline slot features expanding wilds and respin.

4. Louisiana sports betting makes big stride
On Wednesday, the state Senate in Louisiana voted 28-9 in favor of having sports betting being on the ballot in November. The ballot would entail choosing to go forward with SB 130 which would legalize sports wagering at Louisiana’s casinos and racetracks.

The next step for Senator Cameron Henry’s bill is heading to the House of Representatives for approval during its session on 1 June.

The Louisiana Gaming Control Board would be regulating sports wagering in the state. Each parish would have the opportunity to vote on whether or not sports betting is right for their specific area.

This wasn't the only support that the state Senate showed this week for sports betting. Yesterday, after a 23-9 vote, SB 378 is now headed to the House of Representatives as well. Senator Ronnie Johns' bill does not mention mobile sports betting but does permit sports wagers to be placed at retail locations that receive approval.

Elsewhere in the state, land-based casinos have been given the green light to resume operations and reopenings are expected to begin on Monday.

At Paragon Casino Resort, slots and table games will reopen along with the hotel and a few select restaurants as of next Wednesday.

Harrah's Louisiana Downs and Horseshoe Casino & Hotel - Bossier City both announced that gaming operations at the two casinos will return on Monday. In order to comply with certain guidelines, slot machines are being spaced out properly to abide by social distancing rules and the two casinos can only operate at 25% capacity.

3. Record month for New Jersey online casinos
While land-based sportsbooks and casinos languish, revenue at online casinos and poker rooms continue to skyrocket in the Garden State, hitting a record $80 million in April.

Combined, online poker rooms and online casinos generated a record $79.96 million in April revenue, up 118.6% from $36.6 million in April 2019 and easily topping the $64.8 million mark set last month.
With few sports to bet on and retail sportsbooks shuttered completely, New Jersey’s sportsbooks were out of about $450 million in bets in April, according to PlayNJ estimates.

April’s handle was down 82.6% from $313.7 million in April 2019 and down 70% from $181.9 million in March. Under normal circumstances, New Jersey sportsbooks would have generated some $500 million in bets in April.

2. Deadwood looking to bring in sports betting
Deadwood, South Dakota, will have sports wagering on its ballot of the 2020 general election in November.

If this measure is voted in, tribal casinos in Deadwood would also be granted access to offer sports wagering.

Voting yes would be to change the state’s constitution so that it does permit sports betting to be offered along with the already allowed keno, craps, some card games and slots. Voting no would be for not changing the constitution.

As Deadwood will face a decision in six months for sports betting, its land-based casinos were among the first in the U.S. to reopen last week.

1. Casinos begin to open doors again
It’s starting to look more like the time all of gamblers have been waiting for. Casinos are starting to welcome back guests while following new health and safety guidelines.

Louisiana, as mentioned above, isn’t the only casino hot bed region that will be getting back to business.

Las Vegas is also making plans and taking steps to prepare for when they can reopen. As they await word from the Governor Steve Sisolak to speak on Las Vegas resorts, some of the casino giants are introducing reopening plans with detailed procedures and phases.

MGM Resorts International released a report on Tuesday outlining the comprehensive health and safety protocols the company is implementing prior to re-opening.

The Seven-Point Safety Plan covers the following areas:
  • Screening, Temperature Checks and Employee Training
  • Mandatory Masks and Personal Protective Equipment
  • Physical Distancing
  • Handwashing and Enhanced Sanitization
  • Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning Controls and Air Quality
  • Incident Response Protocols
  • Digital Innovations

Caesars Entertainment is in the same boat as MGM Resorts, after releasing its plan to reopen properties.

At all properties, Caesars will facilitate social distancing practices, including by limiting table game spots and slot machines. Nongaming offerings, including entertainment, restaurants and bars, will likely be reopened on a phased basis with limited capacity.

All staff members will be required to wear masks and it will be highly recommended that guests wear one as well.

Restaurants are also a major topic when it comes to resorts.

The Nevada Gaming Commission and Control Board is allowing restaurants within licensed gaming properties to reopen for dine-in services as long as they follow the necessary guidelines.

Those guidelines include:
  • Self-service stations (salad bars, beverage stations, etc.) are NOT permitted
  • Restaurants shall require employees to wear face coverings and should encourage customers to wear face coverings, to the maximum extent practicable
  • In-person or on-premises dining is limited to no more than 50% of available seating capacity, excluding bar seating (table and bar top seating).
  • Reservations should be required when practicable to better achieve social distancing requirements
  • Tables or available booths must be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Bar tops & bar areas within restaurants remain closed (can serve drinks at table)
  • If waiting to be seated, patrons must wait outside and practice social distancing
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