Slot machines at the Hard Rock Casino.

The governor’s emergency order requires the state-licensed casinos to shut down for the next two weeks.

Iowa Gaming Association PresidentWes Ehrecke says four casinos had already made the decision to temporarily close — and others were discussing it. “These are unprecedented times, and it’s imperative to flatten the curve to minimize exposure to the coronavirus so we don’t overwhelm the health care system,” Eherecke says. Iowa’s 19 commercial casinos are premier entertainment destinations that attract thousands of patrons each week, and we support the governor’s order to help contain that during these critical next two weeks.”

Prairie Meadows Casino in Altoona was the first to announce that it was suspending operations. The casino announced a 30-day closing and says it will continue paying employees during that time. Ehrecke says other casinos might follow that pay policy.
“Anticipate that other gaming companies will do likewise — but I have not confirmed that entirely yet, “Ehrecke says.

The casinos have restaurants that are part of their facilities and must shut down inside service — but under the governor’s order could still operate a restaurant drive-through or with take-out service. Eherecke is not sure if that will be an option for casinos.
“If someone had a facility that was capable of a drive-through or a carry-out, they might consider that. But, it’s my understanding that most will close their entire property for the next couple of weeks,” he says.

Ehrecke is not sure what type of long-term impact this might have on the casinos. “There’s is no script for what we are experiencing here as a state, as a country as a world,” Ehrecke says. “Those are discussions to be having with the properties as it relates to potential state support or even federal support as it relates to disruption of business, and helping these companies if there is some need relative to that. So, all that discussion I anticipate will be happening here in the next week or two.” The shut down under the emergency order is effective through March 31st.