Casinos Closed In Iowa At Least Through The End Of March

Written By Derek Helling on March 17, 2020
Iowa lottery

Unlike several other states, the Hawkeye State took a slower, more reactive approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Some businesses in the state, excluding Iowa casinos, remain open.

On Tuesday, March 17, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered the state’s gaming facilities closed to the public. There’s no concrete date for when they will reopen right now.

The latest on the state of Iowa casinos during the pandemic

As of noon local time today, all of the state’s casinos were ordered to close their doors. While some businesses in Iowa will be allowed to remain open on an altered basis, casinos are unable to operate for the time being.

That’s because casinos can represent some of the densest gatherings in the state. Health officials have recommended banning large crowds to control the spread of the virus.

Reynolds has banned all gatherings of more than 10 people. At the same time, restaurants will be able to serve customers through carryout, delivery and drive-thru components.

Reynolds’ order follows actions by others in the state. The mayor of Des Moines, the state capital, banned gatherings of over 250 people on public property Sunday.

That followed the state’s colleges and universities moving their classes online. The University of Iowa, for example, has shut down all on-campus classes through at least April 3.

Iowa’s lower levels of public schools have also closed after a recommendation from Reynolds. The state Legislature also stands at recess for at least a month.

While Reynolds’ order expires on March 31, that may not be the end of the ordeal. It could be several weeks before Iowans are able to enjoy these facilities again.

Why a shutdown could last well through April

The latest guidance from the Center for Disease Control recommends that all scheduled gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed for at least eight weeks. If Iowa’s government acts according to that, this shutdown could last well into May.

That’s because of the size of crowds that casinos accommodate, the number of hard surfaces at casinos the virus can live on and the age demographic that casinos usually attract. Health officials have recommended people 60 years of age or older sequester themselves.

It would be a bad optic for casinos in Iowa to be the outliers if their counterparts in other states and other businesses in Iowa remain closed. It sends a message of prioritizing profit over the health not only of customers but of employees and the public at-large as well.

If the casinos do shut down in Iowa, the next question in some Iowans’ minds will be whether that would affect the state’s online sportsbooks. That will largely depend on whether state regulators continue to work as normal.

As online sportsbooks in the state are regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, they can only operate as long as that agency is operating. If the state should furlough employees of that agency, online sportsbooks may have to stop taking action in Iowa.

All of that is a hypothetical right now, however. For the time being, it’s business as usual for online sportsbooks in Iowa. That may change at any moment, however, and it’s best for Iowans to stay aware of the latest developments.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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