Pennsylvania was one of the hardest hit states when the coronavirus first started to spread in the US. A close proximity to New York and crowded urban centers drove up the confirmed cases in the early stages of COVID-19 spread back in March.
This led to the closure of most public facilities, including the Keystone State’s 12 land-based casinos on March 12. Gov. Tom Wolf has taken a different approach to jump-starting his state’s economy. The hardest hit sections of the state face far more restrictions than areas that did not experience the massive amount of COVID-19 cases.
Most of the issues were in the eastern part of the state, including the city of Philadelphia. The western part of the state had far fewer cases, including the city of Pittsburgh. Heading into the second full week of June, Gov. Wolf initiated his Green Phase of recovery on June 5 for specific counties.
This paved the way for the reopening of three casinos located in the southwestern part of the state. Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and the Meadows Casino reopened for business on Tuesday, June 9. The Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin, in the similar part of the state, will reopen on Friday, June 12. Counties that are part of Pennsylvania’s Green Phase can hold gathering up to 250 people. Restaurants and bars can open but they must stay at 50 percent capacity. All entertainment venues, including casinos are also limited to 50 percent capacity.
Overall, there are more than 80,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state with more than 6,000 deaths. This puts PA sixth on the list among states with the highest rates of infection. New York ranks No. 1 with New Jersey second on the list.
As with casinos that are reopening across the nation, strict restrictions and requirements are in place. The goal is to ensure the safety of casino employees and patrons. Face masks must be worn. Blackjack tables will be limited to three players. Roulette tables move to four and craps tables can accommodate up to six players at a time. Every other slot machine will be disabled. Unlike certain states, smoking will still be permitted on the casino floor. However, it is not permitted at gaming tables.
The two biggest casinos in PA are Parx Casino near Philadelphia and Wind Creek Bethlehem, close to the New Jersey border. According the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, Parx posted $639.4 million in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in 2019. Wind Creek Bethlehem came in second at $522.1 million. The three Philadelphia area casinos (including Rivers Casino and Harrah’s) accounted for $1.2 billion of the state’s $3.4 billion in gaming revenue last year. The state’s losses during the shutdown in tax revenue and fees have totaled tens of millions of dollars. Every dollar spent on slot machines return 54 cents to the state’s coffers. There was no mention of when other casinos in the state will be able to reopen their doors to the betting public.