‘It doesn’t make sense.’ Local gaming parlors react to new COVID-19 restrictions

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Under the new restrictions, casinos must close and video gaming machines must be switched off Friday. The decision leaves many people frustrated. Businesses who depend on gaming tell us their bills don’t stop because of a pandemic.

“It doesn’t make sense when he puts these restrictions in place, and that’s what creates a lot of the frustration,” said Amber Pena, the manager of Lucky 777 Slots.

Video gambling machines across the state will be shut down on Friday as part of the new Tier 3 mitigations announced by Gov. Pritzker Tuesday afternoon. The decision has many local gaming parlor owners scratching their heads.

“So I can continue to go to the mall, I can get my hair done, I can go to Walmart, I can go to big box stores, but our business that has six gaming terminals, so our capacity is so minimal, we have to shut down,” Pena said.

Amber Pena is a manager at Lucky 7’s Slot and Video Poker Lounge in Roscoe. She says there’s no reason to believe gaming parlors were contributing to the recent surge in cases.

“Spacing isn’t an issue, the plexiglass is there, and we are continually cleaning. The customers have to wear masks. I’ve had customers say you guys are cleaner than a hospital in here,” she said.

“People really are just coming in, sitting down at a clean machine, playing with their masks on, leaving, and then the machines cleaned for the next customer,” said Christine Swanson, the owner of Next Stop Slots in Rockford.

Christine Swanson said while bars and restaurants can offer curbside pickup or carryout during the pandemic, gaming parlors don’t even have the option of trying to adapt to the new mitigations.

“We still have to pay our lease, we still have to pay our utilities, our employees have to refile for unemployment. That’s taking weeks for them to get responses, even though we’re not contesting it. So all of our employees suffer, we suffer,” she explained.

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