Regulators shut down video gambling machines across Illinois due to COVID-19

The shutdown follows Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order closing all Illinois bars and restaurants to dine-in customers.

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Gamblers play at an Elmwood Park restaurant in 2014.

Gamblers play at an Elmwood Park restaurant in 2014.

Sun-Times file

State regulators Monday ordered all video gambling machines shut down across Illinois until the end of March, bringing the gaming industry to a full stop a day after officials shuttered Illinois casinos in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus. 

Most of the slots already would have gone dark under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s unprecedented order shutting down all bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery orders. 

But the order from the Illinois Gaming Board ensures all 35,483 machines set up at 7,307 establishments across the state are blacked out for two weeks, including those at gas stations and VFW halls.

“The public health of patrons, video gaming industry employees, Gaming Board staff, and all others is of paramount importance,” the board said in a statement. “The Board is continuously monitoring developments in connection with the COVID-19 public health crisis and will update licensees as warranted.”

The ban goes into effect goes into effect at 9 p.m. Monday and lasts through March 30. Regulators previously forced Illinois’ 10 casinos to close their doors Sunday night

It’s the first time Illinois’ video gaming terminals have been shut down since they were introduced in 2012 and overtook the casinos as the state’s top gaming revenue generator in 2017. Gamblers lost $1.7 billion at the machines last year, and about $1.4 billion at casinos. 

The launch of Illinois’ brand new sports betting industry just a week ago was spoiled by the statewide coronavirus shutdown, leaving horse racing as the only game in town via mobile and online wagering. Fairmount Park in downstate Collinsville is closed to spectators, including at their off-track betting parlors, but said they’ll broadcast races to wager on. Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney announced Monday evening they’re suspending races through the end of the month.

Illinois Lottery games are still available, though the claim center at the Thompson Center in the Loop for winnings over $600 is closed until further notice. Claim centers in Des Plaines, Rockford, Springfield and Fairview Heights are still open. 

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