PA Gaming Review: Philly Casinos Reopen, Penn Online Plans, More Poker Success

Written By Kevin Shelly on June 30, 2020 - Last Updated on September 27, 2020
Harrah's and other Philly casinos are now open

Normal? Nah, not yet — not by a long shot. But we are getting toward normalish in much of Pennsylvania.

Three casinos reopened last Friday, two in hard-hit suburbs of Philadelphia, but with lots of precautions in place.

Penn National Gaming‘s casino and racetrack reopened, and the company followed up by announcing that it planned to have its Barstool Sports-branded sportsbook app live in August. But that was before the newest kerfuffle involving Barstool founder Dave Portnoy, with his most recent problems caused by racist language and uncensored ranting. So, who knows?

Meanwhile, the PokerStars PA Summer Series ended last Sunday, with prize pools for the 38 events totaling $1,175,463.85. That was well above the $757,000 in total guarantees.

Valley Forge, Harrah’s welcome back patrons in the Philly burbs

Casinos throughout the state have reopened, with one exception. Rivers Philadelphia, still closed, is in the city at the epicenter for COVID-19 in PA. But Harrah’s, Valley Forge and Parx, in the nearby Philly suburbs, are now open.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has required all casinos to follow reopening protocols.

The main points include:

  • Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity.
  • Employees and guests must wear masks.
  • There must be markings to promote social distancing.
  • Enhanced cleaning is required throughout.
  • Poker rooms are not authorized.
  • There are limitations on the number of players allowed at table games.

Penn National plans to be online with sports by end of August

During an appearance on Jim Cramer‘s influential evening stock market show The StreetJay Snowden, president and CEO of Penn National, said the PA-headquartered company planned to enter the online sportsbook market in August, ahead of the NFL season.

After all, that was the reason for buying 36% of Barstool Sports earlier in the year. PENN stock shot up for a time as Portnoy touted his holding the gaming company’s stock to his followers.

However, later in the week, E-Trade told Portnoy it was dropping his stock trading account because of his rants. And then a 2016 commentary by Portnoy likening QB and social activist Colin Kaepernick to a terrorist and using a racial epithet resurfaced. PENN stock then lost about $7 in value, though it is no longer dropping.

Because Portnoy holds fewer than 5% of PENN stock, he is not subject to licensing, according to a spokesman for the PGCB. Whether any of this affects the app’s rollout in the PA online sports betting market remains to be seen.

Poker event pulls nearly 20,000 entries

PokerStars’ first summer series had 19,492 total entries over its 11 days, with 13,638 uniques.

Only one event during the series missed the mark. The overlay was $4,436.20.

But that was the exception. About a third of the tournaments ended up with prize pools more than twice the size of the guarantees.

The $200 Main Event had a $150,000 guarantee, and with 1,303 total entries, and the prize pool ballooned to $242,358.

With no casino poker rooms open due to virus restrictions, demand should remain high in the coming weeks.

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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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