After several days of public questioning about whether casinos would comply with bans on public gatherings, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Tuesday that casinos in the state would close at midnight and remain closed at least until March 30.
“I have consulted with the Chairman of the Gaming Commission, and Missouri casinos will be closed at midnight tonight through March 30 in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Parson announced on social media about 12:15 p.m. Tuesday.
I have consulted with the Chairman of the Gaming Commission, and Missouri casinos will be closed at midnight tonight through March 30 in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) March 17, 2020
Thirteen casinos operate in Missouri. In the St. Louis area, the commission’s decision will affect the Hollywood and River City casinos in St. Louis County, Lumière Place in St. Louis and Ameristar in St. Charles.
By Wednesday morning, websites for the casinos reflected the temporary closures. For example, Lumiere Place's message said "your wellness is our priority."
On Friday, Illinois ordered casinos in the state to shut down Monday and stay closed for at least two weeks. That move affected the Casino Queen in East St. Louis and the Argosy Casino in Alton.
Missouri Gaming Commission Chairman Mike Leara said the closure of the state’s 13 casinos could result in a revenue loss to the state of $1 million a day.
Leara said that will be a big hit to state finances. “But I don’t think we had any choice in this,” he said.
According to the gaming commission’s website, in fiscal 2019, casinos paid $314.3 million in wages; contributed $364.5 million in direct gaming taxes to state and local governments; and earned $1.73 billion in gross gaming revenue.
The closures came after Leara visited Ameristar. He said he found it as clean as it could be for a public space. But in the interest of safety, Leara said he advised the governor to shutter the facilities.
“The governor’s office was concerned that gatherings of more than 50 people were not in the best interest of the state,” Leara said.
He said casino operators accepted the decision, based on what they had watched happening in other states. “They started to see this coming,” he said.