LANSING — Detroit casinos will have to ban smoking on their gambling floors and limit capacity to 15% initially when they are allowed to open by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, regulators said Monday, as the state continued reporting just small increases in COVID-19 deaths and cases.
A judge, meanwhile, ruled that penalties included in the governor’s workplace safety rules are excessive. Restaurants and bars were able to start serving dine-in customers again.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board approved minimum reopening guidelines for the commercial casinos, though they remain closed amid the pandemic under a gubernatorial order. Many of the 24 tribal casinos in Michigan, which are not regulated by the state, have already reopened or will do so soon.
During their initial re-opening, MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino and Greektown Casino will limit capacity at no more than 15% and keep poker rooms and self-serve buffets closed. They will have to check temperatures of everybody entering and frequently clean slot machines. Patrons will be required to wear a mask unless drinking or eating.
Revenues at the three casinos, which have been closed since March 16 in a city that was hit hard by the virus, were down nearly 52% through May compared to the same point a year ago. Whitmer could let the casinos open in the coming weeks.
Bars and restaurants on Monday reopened tables, at 50% capacity, after previously being limited to takeout and delivery. Day camps, outdoor pools, libraries and museums also could open under an order issued a week ago.
State Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray ruled that the Democratic governor’s coronavirus-related workplace safety orders include excessive penalties for employers in violation. It was a victory for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan trade group and Grand Rapids-based DJ’s Lawn Service, which sued Whitmer more than two weeks ago with help from the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
The judge said Whitmer could not incorporate fines ranging up to $70,000 and a three-year felony — which are included in the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act — into directives that are governed by emergency laws that allow for lesser penalties: a 90-day misdemeanor and a $500 fine.
“The Legislature’s decision to expressly limit the range of available penalties for violation of an executive order issued under the two emergency statutes indicates a clear intent to prohibit the imposition of any other penalties,” Murray wrote.
Whitmer’s workplace safety order includes rules related to screening, training, infection-control practices, the use of personal protective equipment and other protocols.
The state health department reported 17 additional COVID-19 deaths Monday, bringing the total to more than 5,900. Of the 64,700 people with confirmed or probable cases, at least 42,000 had recovered as of Friday.
Three large counties in the heavily populated Detroit area — Wayne, Oakland and Macomb — account for 77% of deaths despite holding 39% of Michigan’s population.
The state elections board approved petition wording to recall Whitmer from office for signing stay-at-home and other restrictions to curb the coronavirus. It is highly unlikely that Chad Baase of Albion, a Republican candidate for the state House who criticized business closures and problems with the unemployment benefits system, could collect more than 1 million voter signatures within a 60-day period.
Whitmer may appeal the board’s decision. Her re-election campaign called the recall effort a “baseless partisan attack.”