PlayUSA Rewind: Temporary Casino Closures Begin Yet Again Due To Pandemic

Posted on November 24, 2020 - Last Updated on December 30, 2020

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. Unfortunately, if you thought this year’s holiday would be filled with a casino buffet, a couple of rounds at the craps table and a few pulls of your favorite slot machine, you are sadly mistaken.

This week, another round of casino closures, a lucrative Bally’s Casino deal and the anticipated launch of PointsBet make the list.

On the rewind:

Casinos prepare for another round of closures

In March, the US casino industry saw something it had never seen in its existence. Every single casino in the US was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It just wasn’t safe to have swarms of people enclosed in a highly populated area, huddled around blackjack tables or waiting in line for the $24.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. Governors across the US took it upon themselves to order the mandatory closure of all land-based properties to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Now, it appears the industry is headed in a similar direction once again. This time, top lawmakers and gaming executives hope casino closures won’t last another five months.

Already, the governors in Illinois and Michigan have ordered the shutdown of casinos in their respective states. IL Gov. JB Pritzker announced that casino doors would close on Nov. 20 but has yet to announce when they will be allowed to reopen.

His counterpart to the east, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, announced that the state’s three commercial properties would close for a minimum of three weeks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. To be clear, neither Whitmer nor the state gaming board has authority over the 20+ tribal casinos in the state. So those properties remain open for now.

The state of Nevada has taken similar, although not as extreme, measures to help weather the storm. Gov. Steve Sisolak said casinos must limit occupant capacity to 25% effective immediately. He also announced that all Nevadans and visitors will be required to wear a mask or facial covering at all times.

Both New Mexico and Pennsylvania have also been hit, among others.

The takeaway: These are the earliest examples of governors preparing for what experts anticipate to be another, more harsh wave of the virus. While it’s still unknown if other gambling-forward states like New Jersey or Mississippi will take similar steps, there is a slight chance that they will.

Bally’s Corporation making big moves

I’ll call acquiring your brand name and raise you … purchasing a sports betting supplier and TV naming rights.

Things are brewing over at Bally’s. Last week, Twin River acquired the Bally’s property in Atlantic City and decided to rebrand. It even changed its stock ticker from TRWH to BALY.

Now, it has decided to get into the sports betting and iGaming business by purchasing Bet.Works for $125 million.

But that’s not all. In a separate deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Bally’s will also get the naming rights to 20 regional sports networks.

We know sports betting and iGaming is the hot trend right now, so it was only right that Bally’s decided to snag up a platform supplier. But the network deal, now that was a power play.

The deal, worth around $85 million over 10 years, according to the New York Post, will see all 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks transform into Bally’s Sports. The company will also integrate betting content into the 190 television stations Sinclair owns and operates.

The takeaway: This is big for Bally’s. The company has seen a literal transformation overnight. Acquiring a big name brand (Bally’s), purchasing a top sports betting supplier with ties to TheScore and now locking in a TV deal that will increase brand awareness? Check, check and check. It remains unknown if all these chess moves will provide dividends, but the company is on the attack right now and heading in the right direction.

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PointsBet finally arrives in its home state of Colorado

Our last bit of news involved sports betting operator PointsBet and its recent launch in Colorado.

The company has rattled off a very extensive list of achievements over the past several months. If you need a refresher, here they are:

  • Multiyear deal with NBCUniversal.
  •  Sports betting partnership with the University of Colorado.
  • Exclusive sportsbook of Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Mammoth (NLL) and Ball Arena.
  • Sportsbook is live in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and New Jersey.

With its arrival, the Rocky Mountain State now has 16 Colorado sports betting apps available for iOS and Android.

PointsBet also reached an agreement with Double Eagle Casino in Cripple Creek with plans for a retail sportsbook.

The takeaway: While the company might not have the massive name recognition that comes with DraftKings or FanDuel, PointsBet is doing enough to carve out its own piece of the sports betting market. By being live in five states and securing partnerships with major sports leagues and a university, it’s safe to say the company is doing more than enough to hang with the blue bloods of the industry.

Photo by Rogelio V. Solis / Associated Press
Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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