It’s only been a month, and we have a long road ahead of us By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports April 11, 2020 at 5:00 am It was a mid-March afternoon – Friday the 13th, as fate would have it – when gaming regulators closed Illinois’ 10 riverboat casinos, making it the first state to order a shutdown due to the spreading COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Illinois soon wouldn’t be alone. The next 48 hours developed into a vortex as more than a dozen states followed Illinois’ lead. I exchanged text messages throughout the weekend with one gaming insider as we tried to guess which state would be the next to close its casinos. By late Sunday – the Ides of March – Nevada had its “et tu, Brute?” moment. The closed Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi/Photo via South Mississippi Living by James Edward Bates. Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International became the first companies to close Las Vegas Strip properties. Two days later, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said the nation’s largest gaming and tourism market needed to cease operations completely, as a matter of public safety. The move seemed to compel the rest of the gaming industry to follow suit. What took place nearly a month ago was the right thing to happen. Governors, state gaming regulators, tribal governments, and individual casino operators all made difficult decisions, but the response was appropriate and necessary in helping in the effort to slow the movement of a deadly nationwide health crisis. Nearly 1,000 commercial and tribal casinos in 43 states are closed, and some 680,000 gaming employees are out of work. That was a painful sentence to have to write. We’re in an unprecedented time, and there isn’t a playbook to draw from. The gaming industry will remain closed at least through April. As I wrote this week, casinos might not open until late May, and even when they do, we’re not going to see resorts ramp back up all at once. Social distancing protocols will continue, and casino customers will need to get comfortable again being around large crowds. Alan Snel, on his LVSportsbiz.com website, cited a study by Seton Hall University that found a majority of Americans, including sports fans, say they will not attend games inside arenas or stadiums until a vaccine is developed to immunize against COVID-19. I wonder what the answer would have been if the survey folks had substituted sports venues with casinos? The gaming industry can’t worry about that question immediately; there are more pressing matters, such as finding ways to help a furloughed workforce that is looking at weeks or months without a paycheck. The American Gaming Association needs to keep the pressure on the Small Business Administration to change its rules that denies small gaming companies the opportunity to share in the $349 billion in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. And eventually, when the time comes, casino operators need to reopen their closed venues in a responsible manner. The next few weeks and months will define the gaming industry’s future. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.