Pennsylvania Casinos Ordered to Remain Shut till January 2021

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf tested positive for the coronavirus this week, prompting the authorities to take sterner steps to curb virus transmission. The Governor’s office just announced a new round of social distancing regulations applying to businesses across the state, and the new rules include a ban on commercial gambling.

“With the new regulations in place, we hope to fulfill three primary goals. The first one is mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. The second is preventing our hospitals and emergency staff from being overwhelmed. And the third is to help Pennsylvania get on with the holiday season without worrying about a major outbreak. This is a bridge to a brighter future for the state”, the Governor explained.

The Sudden Spread of COVID-19

Rivers Casino Philadelphia was forced to shut down on December 12 following an order from the city council. The Governor’s order now forces the 12 other casinos in the state to shut shop for the remaining duration of 2020. Pennsylvania is the third-largest gambling hub in the US, behind New Jersey and Nevada.

While land-based casinos will remain shut till January 4, 2021, New Jersey’s online gambling industry will continue to operate through the holiday season. Like most major states in the US, Pennsylvania is reeling from a fresh spike in COVID-19 infections, while the death toll has also risen considerably.

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, said that in the last two weeks, the state reported its highest number of deaths since February 2020. “The virus continues to test our healthcare system, which is already running at full capacity, and the dramatic rise in fresh cases across people of all age groups is alarming,” Rachel added.

Citing the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), Governor Wolf said large indoor gatherings are a high-risk activity. And casinos are grouped with similar venues like arcades, museums, theatres, recreation centers, private clubs, and bowling alleys.

Impact on Physical Casinos

Casinos were allowed to reopen across the US back in June, following a three-month lockdown. And although occupancy was limited to just 25% along with additional social distancing norms, they were managing to get through.

Pennsylvanian casinos generated over $891.3 million in Gross Gaming Revenue in the third quarter of 2020, a 3.8% increase from Q2 this year. The revenue includes earnings from brick-and-mortar casinos, online casinos, and sports betting operations across the state.

Forcing the physical operators to shut down again during the holiday season will inadvertently affect the year’s GGR. While the CDC claims indoor entertainment is a high-risk activity during the pandemic, land-based casinos are equipped with sophisticated ventilation systems that circulate fresh air through the property.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia, for instance, claims its air system is proven to be over 99.9% effective in neutralizing the coronavirus from surfaces. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board had claimed last month that barely 1% of casino workers employed at properties across the state had contracted COVID-19. The number stands at 108 since the beginning of the pandemic.


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