Take Me Out To The Ballgame And More: Illinois Hopes To ‘Fully Reopen’ By July 4

Written By Joe Boozell on May 5, 2021Last Updated on March 9, 2022
reopen illinois

Mayor Lori Lightfoot aims to have Chicago fully reopened by July 4 and Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is optimistic that the rest of the state can do the same.

At a Tuesday press conference, Lightfoot expressed her desire for Chicago to be among the first cities in the nation to fully and safely reopen.

At present, Illinois is in Phase 4 of its COVID-19 reopening strategy, which imposes limitations on the operational capacities of restaurants, retail shops, and personal care services. In this phase, casinos in Illinois can only function at 50% capacity.

During the pandemic, Illinois casinos underwent two complete shutdowns, first in the spring of 2020 and then again in the winter. However, the majority of the time, all 10 facilities have been operating at a capacity of 25%-50%.

Should Illinois fully reopen by July 4, it would represent the first occasion since early March 2020 that the casinos could operate at full capacity.

According to Pritzker, Illinois might transition into a “bridge phase” next week, which is one phase before complete reopening.

This would increase most capacity limits from 50% to 60%. The state’s plan does not specifically refer to casinos, but we should gain more insight into how the bridge phase impacts casino capacity once it is reached.

“We are perpetually vigilant, closely monitoring the numbers,” said Pritzker. “However, I remain hopeful. I believe we are heading in the right direction.”

Should Illinois enter Phase 5 by July, the following 10 casinos will have the ability to reopen at full capacity:

  • Argosy Casino Alton
  • DraftKings at Casino Queen
  • Grand Victoria Casino Elgin
  • Harrah’s Joliet
  • Harrah’s Metropolis
  • Hollywood Casino Aurora
  • Hollywood Casino Joliet
  • Hotel & Casino Jumer’s
  • Par-A-Dice Casino
  • Rivers Casino

Pritzker ended mobile sports betting registration in Phase 4

Even when casinos were only able to operate at 50% capacity, the Illinois governor still terminated mobile sports betting registration about a month ago.

It appeared that mobile registration at Illinois sportsbooks might persist until casinos fully reopened, as Pritzker continued to extend his executive order into the fall and winter.

Unless new legislation is passed, in-person registration will remain for the foreseeable future.

Return of fans at Chicago sports stadiums

Currently, the Cubs and White Sox are permitting fans at 25% capacity. The Bulls and Blackhawks will start allowing fans from May 7.

The bridge phase plan indicates that the spectator event capacity will rise to 60%. Therefore, we’ll be keeping an eye on whether the professional sports teams in Chicago can expand their capacity once this phase is achieved.

Once Illinois enters Phase 5, sports stadiums should be able to reopen at full capacity.

Naturally, the Bulls and Blackhawks won’t have games in July. However, the Cubs and White Sox will be playing, suggesting an increase in fan attendance during the summer.

The possibility of reopening would also be advantageous for the football season. Despite having played the entire 2020 season without spectators, the Bears could see Soldier Field filled with fans once more in 2021.

Currently, there are no retail sportsbooks at sporting venues in Illinois. However, DraftKings is set to open a retail sportsbook at Wrigley Field within the next few years.

Could this hurt Illinois online casino in negotiations?

Over the upcoming weeks, Illinois legislators will be deliberating on gaming proposals, with online casinos being a major topic of discussion.

Bills are currently under consideration in the House and Senate to make internet gaming legal in Illinois. The Internet Gaming Act HB 3142 was brought up in the previous week’s Executive Committee hearing.

An argument supporting online casinos is that they provide a means of sustaining physical casinos during periods of closure or decreased capacity.

Although advocates could argue there might be more reasons to restrict in-person gatherings in the future, the timing for such an argument is not ideal, given that Illinois is on the verge of fully reopening.

Photo by Nam Y. Huh / AP
Joe Boozell Avatar
Written by

Joe Boozell

Since 2015, Joe Boozell has been a college sports writer for NCAA.com. His work has also been published in Bleacher Report, FoxSports.com, and NBA.com. Boozell grew up playing basketball in the Chicagoland area, where he played against Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky… you can imagine how that turned out.

View all posts by Joe Boozell