All PA Casinos and VGTs Ordered to Close Due to Rising COVID-19 Cases Across the Keystone State

Posted on December 10, 2020 - Last Updated on December 12, 2020

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an order late Thursday ordering all casinos closed once again until 8:00 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

The order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12.

Also ordered shut were all 40 truck stop video gaming terminal locations. They are shuttered on the same schedule as casinos.

For now, there does not appear to be a plan to shut down horse racing.

Rivers already closed due to orders from Philly Health Department

Rivers Casino Philadelphia already closed on Nov. 20 on orders from the City of Philadelphia.

All casinos were initially ordered closed in March due to the virus. They had a phased reopening after being closed for months.

Casinos newly reordered to close

The newly affected properties are:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia
  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • Lady Luck Nemacolin
  • Live! Casino Pittsburgh
  • Meadows Casino and Racetrack
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Mount Airy Casino Resort
  • Parx Casino
  • Presque Isle Racetrack and Casino
  • Rivers Pittsburgh
  • Valley Forge Casino and Resort
  • Wind Creek Bethlehem

Live! near Pittsburgh had just debuted, ordered closed

The new Live! Pittsburgh had just opened its doors on Nov. 24. A sister facility, Live! Casino Philadelphia, is under construction with no announced opening date beyond “no later than the end of the first quarter of 2021.”

Gaming officials aiding closure planning

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced Thursday that it is assisting in the shutdown procedures.

Executive Director Kevin O’Toole said public health and the safety of patrons, casino employees and others are of paramount importance. O’Toole said:

“The board is continuously monitoring developments and will update licensees and the public as frequently as possible with any new developments.”

The closures do not affect other forms of gaming regulated by the Gaming Control Board offered via the internet, including online casino games, sports betting and daily fantasy contests.

PA Casino response, messages to employees and patrons

Harrah’s Philadelphia put out a memo to team members on Thursday assuring them that they all will continue to earn pay and benefits through the closure period. Pay during the period is based on average wages over the previous eight weeks.

Frank Leone, COO and general manager of Mount Airy Casino Resort, said in a presser that reservations through Jan. 3 can be cancelled without penalty. Patrons can call (877) 682-4791 for additional information. He also said:

“Our hearts go out to those who have been affected by this pandemic. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to the property on January 4.”

PA horse tracks still running for now

According to the PA Department of Agriculture press secretary, Shannon Powers, tracks are currently not affected by the closure of casinos.

“Tracks open at this time of year are Parx, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Meadows and Penn National. The Mohegan Sun at Pocono and Presque Isle Downs are normally closed this time of year.”

Other activities ordered stopped or limited

Also, indoor dining will again be prohibited. Outdoor dining, takeout food service and takeout alcohol sales may continue.

Wolf ordered outdoor gatherings and events of more than 50 people to cease.

In-person businesses that serve the public may operate at 50% of maximum capacity — except if limited to a smaller capacity by existing orders.

Wolf, who himself tested positive for the virus but is asymptomatic, also ordered the closure of indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities and in-person indoor businesses in the entertainment industry. That includes movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys and others.

Sports for K-12 students and in-person extracurricular school activities must cease, but extracurricular activities may continue virtually.

Spectators cannot attend college sports events. Wolf said the continuation of college sports might continue per federal and state health directives.

The new restrictions were announced the same day a vaccine was approved to immunize people against the virus, though the rollout is still to come.

Previous reopening procedures

COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols were part of the previous reopenings. They detailed minimum safety and health-related requirements that are mandatory before reopening.

The key points then were:

  • Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Employees and guests must wear masks.
  • There are markings on the floor to promote social distancing.
  • Mandatory enhanced cleaning is required throughout the facility.

At first, poker rooms were not authorized to operate following the first shutdown due to players’ handling of cards and chips.

But by mid-November, five of the nine live poker rooms in PA had reopened.

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Kevin Shelly

Kevin C. Shelly is an award-winning career journalist who has spent most of his career in South Jersey. He's the former assistant city editor of The Press of Atlantic City, where he covered the casino industry and Atlantic City government as a reporter. He was also an investigative, narrative enterprise, and features reporter for Gannett’s Courier-Post.

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