How Coronavirus Might Impact PA Casinos And Sports Betting

Posted on March 10, 2020

Fear of the spread of the coronavirus has canceled festivals, conferences and sporting events. Places where significant numbers of people gather, like malls, stadiums and casinos, are responding on a case-by-case basis.

What does the coronavirus (COVID-19) mean for the gambling industry and players?

PA online gaming and betting options are all the more attractive right now.

Dr. Christopher Drumm, of Einstein Healthcare Network and co-host of the Doc and the Deacon podcast, said:

“They should definitely play online now. This is the time where you might want to cut back on going out and being social. You don’t even have to go to the casino to bet on March Madness, you can bet online. If I went to a casino, I wouldn’t be playing the slots. I would consider, at this time, decreasing visits to the casino. But I would be more comfortable if you were in the sportsbook as opposed to touching the slot machine.”

PA Gaming Control Board responds to concerns

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board spokesperson Richard McGarvey said the PGCB executive staff has reached out to each casino about their coronavirus-related plans. The board aims to ensure casinos are following the Pennsylvania Department of Health and CDC guidelines.

The PGCB requested casinos maintain an open dialogue with PGCB’s executive staff when and if reporting coronavirus-related issues.

“With respect to public safety issues involving a virus like coronavirus, it is the PGCB’s role to assure that casinos have continuity and contingency plans in place that would reasonably respond to the situation presented. The plans have to have inherent flexibility to respond to any particular situation, but in all cases should provide for securing the facility and assets as needed, maintaining appropriate levels of staffing, as well as providing avenues to assist patrons and staff alike in responding to a situation.”

What does the coronavirus mean for PA casinos?

Since slot machines, table games and sports betting kiosks are high-touch surfaces, people might cut back or eliminate visits to casinos as coronavirus worries increase.

According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Unlike many other states, Pennsylvanians have legal online options for casino and sports betting. Even if the coronavirus keeps players out of land-based casinos for a time, they can still place wagers online.

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There are eight online casinos in PA:

  • BetRivers
  • PlaySugarHouse
  • Hollywood
  • FanDuel
  • Unibet
  • Parx
  • PokerStars
  • BetAmerica

There are also eight online sportsbooks in PA:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • BetRivers
  • SugarHouse
  • Fox Bet
  • Unibet
  • Parx
  • BetAmerica

A decrease in visitors to land-based casinos would impact a property’s revenue. The effects of it would be even greater on casinos in Pennsylvania with hotel rooms to fill like Wind Creek, Mohegan Sun and even Valley Forge Casino.

Global impact of coronavirus on casinos

Known as the gambling capital of the world, Macau closed casinos for 15 days in February due to coronavirus.

Fitch Ratings estimated the crisis could cost $3.3 billion for the six Macau operators, including the local properties of Las Vegas Sands Corp. and MGM Resorts International.

The Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Oregon was temporarily closed for a deep cleaning after an employee tested positive for the virus.

A doctor’s advice about coronavirus

Widespread panic about the coronavirus caused by misinformation is rampant. Several reliable sources are regularly updated and full of medically backed information about COVID-19.

Tips from Drumm to avoid contracting the coronavirus:

  • Limit nonessential travel.
  • Stay home when you’re sick.
  • Be honest about travel history (Most people don’t want to be quarantined.).
  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • No need to wear masks. There are two types: Regular surgical masks and regular N95 masks (meant for health care professionals). Health professionals are measured for N95 masks. Only high-risk individuals should use them. A surgical mask that doesn’t fit properly is more likely to cause you to touch your face while adjusting it.
  • Don’t touch your face. 

Detecting infection, avoiding the spread

Drumm said that medical offices have specific protocols for the coronavirus in place. As of now, the only way to identify the coronavirus is by a particular PCR test

  • If someone calls and thinks they have symptoms of the coronavirus, they are asked if they’ve been recently exposed or have returned from traveling from China, Italy, Iran or South Korea.
  • Then, they encourage them not to do anything and stay home. Don’t go to work and quarantine for two weeks.
  • If the symptoms are mild, they need to stay home because there are no medications for the coronavirus. If their symptoms are moderate or severe, they contact the health department who sends a person out to conduct testing or bring the affected individual to a testing site.

“Or if someone is very sick, we call ahead to the EMS and hospital so they are prepared. Doctor’s offices and health systems should be having meetings to discuss protocol.”

Coronavirus and the flu

There is a key difference between the coronavirus and the flu. Drumm pointed out that the flu’s reproductive value is about one, which means if one person has it, it spreads to one other person. The coronavirus’s reproductive value, however, is three

Since October, 45 million Americans have been infected with the flu, and it has killed as many as 46,000, according to estimates from the CDC. That translates to about a 1% mortality rate. The coronavirus’s mortality rate is about 3%. However, Drumm expects that number to be much lower. 

Regardless, for the time being, casinos in PA and beyond are likely to continue taking a hit to business as individuals take precautions to avoid infection.

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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