Philadelphia Casino to Close Until Jan. 1 Due to COVID Rules
The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday is bringing new coronavirus closures in Philadelphia.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia (the only casino within the city limits) and South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook will be temporarily closed beginning today (Nov. 20) until at least Jan. 1 under updated restrictions by the city of Philadelphia to slow the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases.
Closing voluntarily in March for four months when the coronavirus pandemic hit the state, Rivers Casino reopened on July 17. It marked the longest coronavirus-caused closure of any brick-and-mortar casino in Pennsylvania. It will now close again.
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Live! Casino Philadelphia, currently under construction, is scheduled to open in South Philadelphia in early 2021.
As of Friday, no other casinos around the region has announced a temporary closing.
Just 70 miles north of Philadelphia, Wind Creek Bethlehem is scheduled to open its first sportsbook, operated by Betfred Sports, on Saturday.
Under the new “Safer at Home” restrictions in Philadelphia, casinos fall under the “business and activities that are not allowed” category.
Lincoln Financial Field, home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, won't be allowed to have fans until further notice when they return home to face the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 30 as outdoor gatherings can't exceed 2,000 people.
Hitting even closer to home, the Eagles on Thursday placed wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, running back Corey Clement and defensive end Vinny Curry on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and wide receiver Deontay Burnett on the practice squad COVID-19 list.
Teams Exempt From Face Mask Mandate
Pennsylvania’s secretary of health announced new orders this week and it looked like both NFL teams — the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers — along with the University of Pittsburgh, would have to wear face coverings and masks while playing under the new “Safer at Home” restrictions.
But that has been clarified by the governor’s office and an updated guidance says football is an exception for wearing face coverings while actively engaged in a game under Section 3 of the order.
The University of Pittsburgh, which hosts Virginia Tech Saturday, issued the following statement acknowledging that:
“To provide further clarity, Pitt football student-athletes will be outfitted with face coverings throughout the game. However, they will not be required to have the coverings pulled up while in the midst of play to prevent the impairment of breathing. Such usage of face coverings during competition would be in compliance with Section 3 of the Secretary of Health’s Face Covering Order.”
The state is also requiring anyone who visits from another state to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the state.
If someone cannot get a test or chooses not to, they must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in state. Both orders, which went into effect on Friday, are also for Pennsylvanians visiting another state as well.
Between Nov. 4-17, Philadelphia County had 10,279 new positive cases and on Thursday the city announced 765 additional confirmed cases, bringing the number of confirms to 57,237. Deaths have reached 1,945 in the city.
What is New Jersey’s Response?
Just 60 miles away is New Jersey’s gaming mecca, Atlantic City.
During New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s news conference on Wednesday, he said that, despite the planned and specific casino closings within the region, there’s no evidence that Atlantic City properties have been responsible for any coronavirus outbreaks.
“We believe, based on the evidence that we have, that they’ve been able to responsibly manage their casino floors,” Murphy said. “Whether it’s through PPE (personal protective equipment), whether it’s through dividers, capacity management, temperature checks, review of symptoms checks with people who go onto the floor, which is happening in all the casinos — there is no evidence that there is either bad management of the floor or that there is a big outbreak coming from participating on the floor.”
However earlier this week, the city’s top casino — The Borgata — announced it is laying off 73 workers and reducing the hours of 349 others due to new indoor-dining limits caused by coronavirus in New Jersey. The governor-imposed new order forces indoor dining to stop between 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
As winter rapidly approaches, the casino/gaming industry is trying to strike a balance, increasing their bottom lines while maintaining a safe environment for both employees and guests.
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.