PlayUSA Rewind: US Casinos, Sporting Events On Pause

Posted on March 25, 2020

With each passing day, it would be easy to say the world is becoming a darker place due to the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses are closing, schools are shutting down, and quarantines and social distancing are being enforced.

During these times, we must remember this age-old (albeit cliche) bit of wisdom: It is always darkest before the dawn.

Casinos across the country are certainly hoping that is the case, what with nearly all properties closing up shop.

Regardless, we continue to march forward. And with each passing day, we are one day closer to getting through to the other side.

On to the Rewind:

The day Las Vegas casinos went dark

Not long ago, Gov. Steve Sisolak was supporting Nevada casinos that remained open during the outbreak. The Silver State governor called gaming “the lifeblood of Nevada’s economy and the source of financial support for so many of our citizens and their families.” As such, he added, “I strongly support any decision our properties make.”

Soon after making that statement, Sisolak ordered the 30-day shutdown of all nonessential businesses in Nevada. On the day of St. Patrick, the Vegas Strip was deserted, and the state’s casinos joined a long list of properties across the country that have suspended operations.

Prior to Sisolak’s order, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore both voluntarily closed for at least two weeks. MGM Resorts followed suit, shutting down nine casinos in Vegas “until further notice.” The likes of Venetian and Palazzo also entered the fold.

The last time Las Vegas casinos closed came nearly 50 years ago, as the city went dark for the funeral of John F. Kennedy in November 1963.

As noted, Nevada’s decision added to the already lengthy list of states that issued similar directives. Now, according to the American Gaming Association, all of the country’s 465 commercial casinos will be closed this week. To boot, some 97% of the nation’s 524 tribal properties will have done the same. All told, around 650,000 casino gaming employees will be affected, and $43.5 billion in economic activity will be taken away if casinos remain closed for two months.

Fortunately for Nevadans, online gambling will remain open. Several sportsbooks have opted to shut down mobile platforms, but the likes of Circa SportsWilliam Hill and WSOP.com remain operational.

Another massive sporting event postponed

Last week, news revolved around the postponement of the NBANHL and MLB seasons, as well as the NCAA electing to cancel March MadnessAugusta National pushing back the Masters, and so on.

Now the first leg in horse racing’s Triple Crown has found a new date.

The 146th Kentucky Derby, always scheduled for the first Saturday in May, will instead run Sept. 5, according to Churchill Downs. Also postponed: the Kentucky Oaks, which will take place Sept. 4.

The Derby has been held on the first Saturday in May all but once in its 145-year history. That one exception: 1945, the conclusion of World War II.

While its rescheduling would otherwise indicate the Kentucky Derby would not be the first leg of the Triple Crown, reports suggest that NBC, which airs all three legs, is considering pushing back the Preakness and Belmont Stakes due to the coronavirus.

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Maryland sports betting gains traction

A silver lining emerged amidst the ever-darkening clouds.

According to Legal Sports Report, the Maryland Senate overwhelmingly concurred (45-0) with changes the House made earlier regarding legalized MD sports betting.

As originally written when it sailed through the Senate, the bill to legalize wagering would authorize betting at four state casinos, three racetracks and potentially the Washington Redskins’ stadium and practice facility. Alas, along with several pages of the bill, this section was apparently taken out by the House.

As a result, the bill to legalize and regulate wagering in Maryland will go in front of state voters this year.

On the ballot, voters will face the question of favoring “the expansion of commercial gaming … to authorize sports and event betting for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.”

Should they pass the referendum in November, the state legislature would need to pass another bill the following year detailing how the industry would operate.

Grant Lucas Avatar
Written by
Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is a longtime sports writer who has covered the high school, collegiate and professional levels. A graduate of Linfield College in McMinnville, Grant has covered games and written features and columns surrounding prep sports, Linfield and Oregon State athletics, the Portland Trail Blazers and golf throughout his career.

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