Indiana Poker Rooms Prohibited From Reopening Alongside Slots, Other Table Games

Indiana is moving toward seeing its retail casinos open their doors once again, despite an ongoing public health crisis with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Indiana Gaming Commission released a set of guidelines for the properties to potentially resume operations in the coming weeks or months. The document is comprised of “minimum standards” that casinos would have to adhere to.

“Response plans must be submitted at least seven days prior to any reopening,” the guidelines stated. “Prior to reopening, all casinos shall conduct a full cleaning and disinfecting of its facility in accordance with CDC and OSHA guidelines.”

While the guidelines are robust, it’s unclear what kind of risk visitors and employees would be taking on this summer. At least 87,000 Americans have died from the virus as of Friday.

Poker rooms are a no-go

Table games will have significant restrictions, arguably stricter than those impacting slot machines.

A table game such as blackjack in Hoosier State casinos will be limited to three players each. Roulette will be limited to four players each, while craps tables can’t have more than six players. The goal is to have players all distanced at least six feet apart.

Players must wear masks.

Poker rooms and pai gow will not be permitted to welcome players again in phase one of the reopening process. Poker tables typically have nine players, but the IGC elected not to go the route of allowing those tables with limited capacity. Poker rooms don’t generate much revenue for a casino, and they’re even less attractive with, say, four-handed tables.

Poker is also a tough game to offer right now because players touch the cards incessantly.

“Cards must be replaced before each shift with the touching of cards by patrons limited to the extent possible,” said the guidelines document. “Chips must be disinfected at least every two hours. Dice must be disinfected for each new shooter.”

Gaming machines and sportsbooks

Machines must be deactivated or taped off and chairs must be removed to ensure gamblers are not within six feet of each other while playing slot machines or electronic table games.

Retail sportsbooks, including kiosks and betting windows, must also implement at least six feet of social distancing. The Hoosier State has 11 retail sports wagering licensees.

The Hoosier State has online/mobile sportsbooks available that have been active during the public health crisis. The internet gambling sites took more than $26 million in wagers in April, despite a greatly watered-down sports menu.

Reopening dates still to be determined

“In moving forward with a Phase One plan, casinos should be advised that reopening dates are subject to change as new data emerges,” the guidelines stated. “Limitations applicable to casinos imposed by local jurisdictions could impact a casino opening.”

On May 1, Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, announced a multi-phase process to reopen the state. The IGC said earlier this month that casinos would not be among the first businesses in the state to reopen.

“Based upon current guidance, it is not anticipated that casinos will open until after the beginning of phase 4,” the IGC said. That phase would include allowing social gatherings of up to 250 people.

Assuming no setbacks, the fourth phase of reopening Indiana’s economy would occur by mid-June.

“Gaming enforcement agents will assist in evaluating the execution of approved plans and additional requirements may be imposed on specific properties,” the guidelines also stated. “Every effort will be made to provide adequate notice of revised requirements, but it is possible that changes will be made on an emergency basis in the interest of public health.”