- Illinois has closed their retail gaming locations for a second time as part of a COVID-19 mitigation effort.
- Ohio has joined the misguided and pointless ‘curfew’ trend by forcing casinos and other businesses to close from 10 PM and 5 AM.
- Although there’s little empirical evidence linking gaming businesses with COVID-19 outbreaks they make an easy target for politicians.
Where have we seen *this* before? As a COVID-19 resurgence rages across the United States with the Midwest taking a big hit there’s an almost pathological desire for politicians to do ‘something’. Whether these attempts at coronavirus mitigation are actually effective isn’t particularly important. In fact, efficacy doesn’t look to factor into these decisions at all. It’s all about ‘appearances’ or what political types call ‘optics’. The derisive (and hilarious) term ‘hygiene theater’ is much more accurate.
Outside of the purview of this website the best example of ‘hygiene theater’ could be the mad rush to close public schools or otherwise move them to a ‘virtual only’ model. New York’s unctuous Mayor Bill de Blasio uses this as one of his ‘go to’ moves. But even the New York Times–a publication typically in favor of any draconian bit of ‘hygiene theater’ and more often than not supportive of de Blasio’s lunacy–points out that NYC public schools have been called “among the safest public places around” by a top city health official or, in other words, one of the ‘experts’ that we’re purportedly supposed to listen to. Lest anyone think that COVID-19 is running rampant through NYC schools the city’s own data suggests otherwise. Based on over 150,000 tests conducted in 4,300+ schools from 10/19 to 11/18 there have been 336 total positive tests. That’s a testing positivity rate of 0.23%.
De Blasio is ignoring the actual medical and scientific data to come up with his own metric. NYT education reporter Eliza Shapiro notes that the ‘average positivity rate’ of 3% is the threshold at which schools are closed.
Keep in mind that this is a citywide test positivity rate–not the 0.23% positivity rate found in NYC schools. In other words, an ‘apples to oranges’ comparision. Or, more appropriately, the conclusion of the essential journal of libertarian thought REASON:
Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting ready to pull the plug because the city’s test positivity rate, which had been hovering around or below 1.5 percent since June, shot up over 2 percent at the beginning of November, and will soon cross 3 percent, which is de Blasio’s threshold for shutting schools down. How did he arrive at that number? He pulled it out of his ass.
SO WHAT DO NYC SCHOOL KIDS HAVE TO DO WITH CASINOS?
Nothing and everything. Want an answer that is less oblique? Casinos are ‘easy targets’ for power mad politicians. Despite evidence that religious services, social events like weddings and family events like reunions are the biggest catalyst of the recent spike in COVID-19 politicians are very hesitant to interfere. In some cases, restricting these activities come with serious constitutional implications (particularly anything involving religion) and are fraught with political danger. Instead, politicians would rather go for some grandstanding and restrict activities that have not been demonstrated to be especially dangerous. In Massachusetts, citizens are now required to wear a mask anywhere–including outside. Never mind that actual infectious disease epidemiologists at Harvard Medical School–you know, legit experts–have said this requirement is pointless at best and counterproductive at worst.
Massachusetts also was one of the first states to implement the downright ridiculous ‘retail curfew’. Most businesses are required to close from 10 PM to 5 AM including casinos. It’s not quite as silly as New Jersey’s ‘dining curfew’ which has resulted in a situation where casinos can stay open but you can’t sit down and have a meal therein between 10 AM and 5 PM but it’s close. To paraphrase REASON Magazine ‘coronaviruses don’t get more deadly or dangerous after dark’. To quote myself from a previous article I facetiously opined:
This is a good idea since everyone knows that the COVID-19 virus can tell time and won’t infect anyone before 10 PM Eastern Time. I’m kidding of course.
Here’s how the aforementioned REASON Magazine broke down the folly of curfews–there’s no evidence that they work and there’s a good chance they’re counterproductive:
Those advocating for curfews argue that when it comes to places serving alcohol, earlier closures will mean fewer drunk patrons, better decisions, and better hygiene. (“Shenanigans happen at night,” said one public health professor.) Others suggest that limiting the hours people can shop or leave their houses recreationally will decrease opportunities for the virus to spread overall. And some leaders have suggested they’re doing it to send the right message about the pandemic.
But…there’s no evidence that this is indeed the case. And it’s just as likely that limited hours mean more people cramming their shopping, socializing, and errands into the same hours, making establishments more crowded and ensuring longer waits in transmission-friendly lines. Besides, not everyone has a job or home and family responsibilities that make state-approved socializing hours possible. Making residents stay in their homes after a certain hour eliminates people’s ability to meet non-household members in safer ways—like taking walks together, meeting in yards or on porches, or patronizing places where the weather or heat lamps still permit—and it also invites selective and discriminatory enforcement.
Once again actual experts give little to no support for this type of ‘mitigation’:
George Mason University epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told Cleveland.com that the challenge with imposing curfews is that “it not only is likely to condense patrons into a smaller window of time, but for things like an outdoor restaurant or even gym, that might be a time with slower business and fewer people, which would make it safer. A better course of action is to focus on those high-risk activities and either temporarily halt them or find ways to make them safer.”
Or Kent State University public health professor Tara C. Smith speaking to VOX who gave a more emphatic critique:
“It seems like it’s spreading all over, but I’ve seen no evidence it helps anything. I’ve not seen a single public health person recommend this as an intervention. I’m mystified at their popularity.”
NEW CASINO CURFEWS IN OHIO, SHUTDOWNS IN ILLINOIS
There have been instances where an outbreak of COVID-19 among casino employees makes targeted shutdowns a good idea but these are usually done proactively by ownership or management. Of course, this is true for any type of business and definitely isn’t unique to the gaming industry. I’m also not going to make the case that casinos are an ‘essential business’ though most politicians and/or bureaucrats use a highly arbitrary and often contradictory definition of ‘essential’.
The gaming industry in most states is an easy target. That’s why casinos, racetracks, etc. are quick to get shutdown despite scant evidence that they play a significant part in the spread of COVID-19. Casino shutdowns are at least intellectually consistent. If you’re going to do what New Mexico has done and close *all* non-essential businesses that would definitely include the gaming industry. Even shutdowns where gaming businesses are specifically singled out are at least consistent–though completely irrational. That’s the case in Illinois where the latest decree from Governor J.B. Pritzger forced all gaming in the state to cease at 11:01 PM Central Time on Thursday night. The closure is indefinite which isn’t surprising since it is based on a completely arbitrary decision–or to paraphrase REASON Pritzger ‘pulled it out of his ass’.
These closures are downright brilliant compared to the dubious trend of curfews either specific to the gaming industry or applied more broadly. In Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine–who only recently woke up to the urgency of facemasks–has implemented a three week ‘retail curfew’. This one is made all the more ridiculous by the verbiage and the fact that it puts the onus on the individual, not the business. Here’s how Las Vegas Review-Journal business reporter Baily Schulz explained it:
The curfew, announced Tuesday, requires individuals within the state to avoid retail businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The reduced hours are meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and prevent the state’s hospitals from being overrun.
She continues the explanation with this unreal example of political doublespeak:
Unlike restrictions in other states, Ohio’s curfew is imposed on individuals, not businesses, according to Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the DeWine’s office. The order does not ask businesses to close, but Tierney said the state does “not expect” customers to visit casinos between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. while the curfew is in place.
“The order closes no business, although we understand some business may change their hours as a result of the curfew,” he said.
This way DeWine can say that he ‘didn’t order a business closure’. Instead, he forces the businesses to come to that decision on their own. Hard to get more weak willed and duplicitous than that. As a result, Ohio’s 11 casinos are–surprise, surprise–going to modify their hours in conjunction with the curfew. DeWine pulls yet another number out of his ass–he claims that the curfew and increased mask usage could reduce COVID-19 cases by 25%. More likely, the same could be said about increased mask usage alone.