The live poker room at Harrah’s Philadelphia appears to be permanently closed.
According to various social media posts by current and former employees, they received word about the decision on Aug. 11.
Harrah’s Philly poker room closed for good?
Various poker room employees at Harrah’s Philadelphia posted on social media about losing their poker-dealing jobs. On the condition of anonymity, a now-former employee (“Jake”) discussed what’s happening at Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room with Play Pennsylvania.
He confirmed that the room is closed, with no plans to reopen it. Management’s calls to poker room employees came via Zoom on Aug. 11. Jake said that they did not offer anyone positions within the organization. However, Harrah’s did say if employees had experience in tables games, they could apply, just the same as anyone else coming in off the street, for openings.
Those who asked if any classes would be offered for table games did not get a clear “yes” or “no” answer.
Play Pennsylvania reached out to Harrah’s regarding the poker room, but they declined to comment.
Silent on social media
Asked whether the poker room closure was permanent, a customer service representative at Harrah’s Philadelphia said:
“It’s closed as of now. We don’t have a date of reopening.”
World Series of Poker-branded room
Harrah’s opened a live poker room in 2010 on the floor below the main gaming floor near where race track betting takes place.
On April 26, 2019, after extensive renovations, Harrah’s Philadelphia became home to the World Series of Poker poker room. Harrah’s corporate parent company Caesars Entertainment owns the popular World Series of Poker brand. Those brands are now housed under Eldorado Resorts, which officially absorbed Caesars mere months ago, maintaining the Caesars brand name.
Last fall, Harrah’s underwent a number of major renovations, including the new retail sportsbook the Book and a Topgolf Swing Suite.
“The poker room was moved from racing level to casino floor to have all gaming action on one floor. It was part of the reimagination of the back of the casino with new sportsbook and Topgolf.”
Parx has the largest live poker room in PA, with 48 tables.
Harrah’s had 27 tables and a full slate of poker promotions and tournaments. On their website, they boasted:
“WSOP Poker Room spreads Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud, and Omaha. With nonstop action and a range of blinds, even the most discriminating Philadelphia gambler will find a perfectly suited game for their taste. Limit games range from $2-4-6 to $20-40, while No Limit games range from $1-2 to $10-25.”
The following pictures were taken at the vacated Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room in July 2020.
Poker rooms in PA still closed
In mid-March, all 12 Pennsylvania casinos closed to slow the spread of coronavirus. Harrah’s Philadelphia reopened on June 26.
When casinos’ home county moved to the “green phase,” they could reopen at reduced capacity (up to 50%). The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) laid out updated health and safety protocols, which included, to start, that poker rooms could not operate due to players handling cards and chips. They said they’d monitor and adjust according to guidance from the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
PGCB Director of Communications Doug Harbach gave this update to Play Pennsylvania on Aug. 25:
“There has been no alteration to the casino reopening protocols released by the Gaming Control Board in May in which poker rooms were not authorized to operate. At the same time, this guideline can be reexamined based on health experts’ guidance. Should casinos wish to explore reopening a casino room, it would need to provide plans to do so safely which would be reviewed by the board on a case-by-case basis.”
WSOP online poker plans in PA
While live poker is off the menu for the time being (and perhaps permanently at some casinos, like Harrah’s), PA poker players still have legal, regulated online poker as an option. PokerStars PA was the first online poker operator to launch in PA, doing so in November 2019. The lone operator has done well in Pennsylvania, peaking in April with revenue of nearly $5.3 million when all casinos were still shuttered.
And while live poker rooms remain closed, online poker revenue at PokerStars has come down to a reasonable yet healthy $3.0 million for July. But it looks as if PA will soon have more online poker options in partypoker (through BetMGM/ROAR Digital) and, ironically, WSOP.com.
While no timeline has been announced for the launch of a WSOP online poker room in PA, we know regulatory approval is underway. That makes for rather unfortunate timing for Caesars’ live poker partner to fold, it would seem. But in 2020, anything is possible.
Note: This is a developing story. PlayPennsylvania will provide the latest updates on the Harrah’s poker room closing as they become available.