Pennsylvania has announced a temporary closure of the state’s 12 casinos effective Saturday, December 12, due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases.
The executive measure announced last Thursday is part of sweeping coronavirus restrictions by Governor Tom Wolf, who himself tested positive for the virus this week. In addition to commercial gambling, the ban will apply to various businesses across the Commonwealth, including indoor dining in restaurants and theaters.
The executive order will take effect on Saturday, December 12, at 12.01 AM and will remain in place until January 4, 2021, at 8:00 AM. The new order is the most drastic measure since the authorities shut down all non-essential businesses in March amid the peak of COVID-19 cases. Besides casinos, the order also covers sports activities, theatres, indoor dining, museums, gyms, bowling alleys, and other entertainment activities in enclosed places. Similarly, all public service-related businesses will be reduced to a 50% capacity limit.
Wolf said the measures aim to accomplish three goals, the foremost of which is the stop of the deadly spread of the virus in the Commonwealth. The second is to keep hospitals and healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed. The third goal is to help state residents get through the holiday season. The governor termed the gap between December 12 and January 4 as a “bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania”.
Which Casinos Have Closed?
Earlier in November, Rivers Casino was closed on the Philadelphia administration’s orders. The new order will shut down another 12 gaming venues in the Keystone State, too. The following casinos will cease to offer all gaming activities on December 12:
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Lady Luck Nemacolin
- Meadows Casino and Racetrack
- Live! Casino Pittsburgh
- Mohegan Sun Pocono
- Parx Casino
- Mount Airy Casino Resort
- Presque Isle Racetrack and Casino
- Valleys Forge Casino and Resort
- Rivers Pittsburgh
- Wind Creek Bethlehem
Pennsylvania Gaming Industry Doing Well
Despite continued restrictions including reduced capacities, the gaming industry in the Keystone State has been performing well since the casinos were allowed to reopen in June. The Q3 gross gaming revenue from land-based casino gambling and sports betting, online casinos, and digital sports betting totaled $891.3 million, representing a 3.8% premium on July, August, and September 2019.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), indoor gaming is risky, but the casino operators claim they have installed sophisticated ventilation systems that routinely bring in new air. Last month, the state’s Gaming Control Board reported that less than 1% of casino employees in Pennsylvania tested positive for the virus.
Order Does Not Affect Online Gaming
Pennsylvania is the country’s third-largest gaming market after Nevada and New Jersey. Though the closures will affect the overall gains from the industry, the executive order will not affect other forms of gaming regulated by the PGCB, including those offered at online casinos, online sportsbooks, and online fantasy sports contests.
The governor’s order comes following recent weeks that saw a sudden increase in virus cases, with more than 10,000 new daily COVID-19 cases five times in the previous week. As many as 12,000 new cases were reported last Thursday, with the number of deaths reportedly increasing in recent days. Wolf said the temporary measures are painful, but it can make a difference.