Pennsylvania Closes Casinos Until Jan. 4 to Help Curb COVID
Pennsylvania casinos will close Saturday until Jan. 4 as part of a new COVID-19 mitigation order announced by Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced it will work with the state’s casinos to invoke closing procedures. Under the order, the casinos will cease all gaming activities and patron entry by 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and casinos may reopen at 8 a.m. on Jan. 4.
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Pennsylvania had 11,972 new coronavirus cases on Thursday.
Wolf, who tested positive for the coronavirus, also prohibited indoor dining in restaurants, closed theaters and shut down scholastic sports in the state.
"We need to slow the spread right now to save lives,” Wolf said during a news conference on Thursday.
The 12 casinos closing Saturday are: Harrah’s Philadelphia, Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Lady Luck Nemacolin, Live! Casino Pittsburgh, Meadows Casino and Racetrack, Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Parx Casino in Bensalem, Presque Isle Racetrack and Casino, Rivers Pittsburgh, Valley Forge Casino and Resort and Wind Creek Bethlehem, which opened its first sportsbook powered by Betfred last month.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia (the only casino within the city limits) and South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook closed beginning Nov. 20 until at least Jan. 1 under updated restrictions by the city of Philadelphia to slow the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases.
Health is Top Priority
“The public health and safety of patrons, casino employees and others are of paramount importance,” PGCB Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said in a news release. "The Board is continuously monitoring developments and will update licensees and the public as frequently as possible with any new developments.”
Online gaming in Pennsylvania including casino-type games, sports betting and fantasy contests are not affected by the order and can continue. Pennsylvania is one of four states that offers online casino games. The others are Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia. Those four states and Nevada also offer online poker.
Pennsylvania set a new state record for monthly sports wagering handle in October with more than $525.8 million in bets, placed both online and at retail books. About 90% of that was mobile, so the closing of the casinos might not hurt the sports betting handle too much.The first casino shutdown took place on March 17 when all 13 casinos were closed at the start of the pandemic. The lockdown lasted for 126 days until July 17, when Rivers Casino Philadelphia resumed operations.
Lou Monaco had been East Coast Scene columnist for Gaming Today in Las Vegas since June 2019, covering the East Coast sportsbook scene with emphasis on NJ and PA. He also currently is a part-time writer for the high school sports department for NJ Advanced Media (NJ.com) in Iselin, NJ. Lou has over 30 years sports experience with previous stints at ESPN SportsTicker, Daily Racing Form and Oddschecker.