Breaking: After Seven Months, Poker Rooms Begin Reopening in Pennsylvania (Updated Oct. 28)

Posted on October 5, 2020 - Last Updated on October 28, 2020

The poker rooms at Mount Airy Casino and Mohegan Sun Pocono opened on Friday, Oct. 16. Rivers Casino Philadelphia and The Meadows welcomed back players on Oct. 23.

Mount Airy is home to a 12-table room in Mount Pocono. Mohegan Sun Pocono tweeted that five cash tables with seven-handed games will be offered daily from 12 p.m.-3 a.m., and plexiglass dividers will separate each guest.

Rivers Philly opened with a $200 High Hand promotion, running every hour 24/7 during October. Meadows poker room will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

PA poker rooms opening one by one

Other poker rooms in Pennsylvania could be reopening any day. According to a spokesperson for the PGCB, casinos submit plans and safety protocols for review. Once they receive final approval from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), they can reopen.

It’s positive news for poker players who have been waiting a long time to get back to live games. Casinos in Pennsylvania started shutting down to slow the spread of coronavirus in mid-March. They did not begin to welcome back guests until June, and poker rooms were not open due to the social nature of the game.

PlayPennsylvania has contacted poker room reps for Hollywood CasinoWind Creek Casino, and Presque Isle Downs Casino but they had no concrete plans to share.

We will continue to update you here as more rooms open or set a date for reopening.

Anthony Cicala III, a reporter for US Poker, offered some insight:

Live Poker is back at Rivers Casino Philadelphia

Rivers Casino Philadelphia reopened its poker room on Oct. 23. It can operate up to 14 tables with a capacity of 100 guests. Under normal circumstances, the room has 28 tables and offers a variety of poker games but now the action will  be primarily No Limit Texas Hold’em cash games.

According to a recent press release, in addition to the existing casino-wide safety measures, the following precautions are in effect for the poker room:

  • Masks must be worn at all times
  • Poker dealers will wear both a mask and a face shield
  • Each poker table in play will have plexiglass dividers, separating players and the dealer
  • A maximum of seven players allowed per table
  • Frequent and thorough cleaning of all cards, chips and surfaces
  • Only sanitized chips bought from the poker room cage will be used in play
  • No food, beverage or smoking is permitted in the poker room or anywhere on the Rivers Casino gaming floor

Peter Longi, assistant general manager at Rivers Casino Philadelphia, commented:

“Poker players are excited to be back at the tables, enjoying the game they love. Our reopening was carefully planned with the safety of our team and guests being the primary concern. We’re eager to welcome back our poker team.”

To assist with social distancing, players are encouraged to call the poker room at 215-717-3883 to put their name on the waiting list. Guests can also check the Bravo Poker Live online or the website’s mobile app for the Rivers Casino poker room up-to-the-minute game status. In addition, players will have a chance to win their share of the $100,000 Bad Beat Jackpot. The minimum qualifying hand is quad 2s.

Here’s a look at a poker table at Rivers Philadelphia:

Players pine for poker

When the PGCB released its casino reopening protocols in late May, part of them stated that poker rooms were not authorized to operate due to players’ handling of cards and chips. They also said poker room operations would be re-examined based on changes in the CDC’s and PA Department of Health’s guidance.

On June 9, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh was the first to welcome back visitors. When asked when poker rooms would return, PGCB Director of Communication Doug Harbach said poker rooms present a different type of challenge since people are sitting close together in a room. He said at the time:

“The casinos want to walk before they run and make sure they are getting the venue open and then move on to opening up other areas once they know the protocols are working well.”

PokerStars, the state’s lone online poker site, has posted healthy numbers in PA, but players are still pining for in-person play.

Harbach gave this update to PlayPennsylvania in late August about poker rooms in Pennsylvania:

“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.”

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Poker is back in New Jersey, too

New Jersey also had a long poker pause. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa reopened its poker room, the largest in the state, on Oct. 21. The room is operating with 30 socially distanced tables. It’s about a third of the room’s 85 tables when operating at full capacity.

The Bellagio in Las Vegas opened its poker room in June. Nevada state guidelines mandated five-handed play in rooms without dividers or plexiglass partitions. However, the Bellagio’s request for six-handed poker games with partitions was approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Other poker rooms in Nevada have also reopened with virus protocols in place.

When will poker rooms in Pennsylvania reopen?

The poker rooms at Mount Airy and Mohegan Sun Pocono are open as of noon Friday, Oct. 16. PlayPennsylvania will continue to provide updates here as more casinos announce plans and reopen live poker.

Hollywood Casino live poker update

Information about Hollywood Casino Poker Room:

  • 17 tables
  • Monday nights, $200 high hand, every 30 minutes; Wednesdays and Thursdays, $200 high hand, every 30 minutes; Fridays, $500 high hand, every 30 minutes; Sundays, hourly high hand prizes.
  • Bad Beat Jackpot
  • Weekly Rack Back Bonus

The Meadows live poker update

The Meadows poker room opened on Oct. 23 with daily hours of 11 a.m. – 1 a.m.

Information about The Meadows Poker Room:

  • 14 tables
  • Live games such as Texas hold’em and Omaha every day
  • Progressive bad beat

Mount Airy Casino live poker update

Mount Airy’s poker room reopened on Oct. 16.

Information about Mount Airy Casino Poker Room:

  • 12 tables
  • Games such as Texas hold’em, Omaha and stud

Mohegan Sun Pocono live poker update

Mohegan Sun Pocono’s poker room reopened on Oct. 16.

Information about Mohegan Sun Pocono Poker Room:

  • Eight tables
  • Daily tournaments feature no-limit Texas hold’em and Bounty tournaments
  • Offering a Bad Beat Jackpot for BOTH cash and tournament play
  • Each day, $25 added to the Royal Flush Jackpot for each of the four suites

Parx live poker update

As Twitter rumor has it (see above), Parx could reopen poker in mid-November with seven-handed tables.

Information about the Parx Casino Poker Room:

  • 80 tables — the most in PA
  • The room offers a variety of no-limit hold’em games (from $1-$2 up to $10-$25), limit hold’em ($3-6 up to $30-$60), pot-limit Omaha, Omaha eight or better and a variety of mixed and draw games
  • Weekly tournaments. Major tournament: Parx Big Stax

Presque Isle Downs live poker update

Information about Presque Isle Downs Poker Room:

  • Seven tables
  • Games like hold’em and Omaha. Also offering multitable and single-table tournaments (sit and go’s)

Rivers Casino Philadelphia live poker update

Rivers Philadelphia reopened poker on Oct. 23. High Hands of the hour will receive $200 in October.

Information about Rivers Casino Philadelphia Poker Room:

  • 28 tables
  • Rivers offers a wide variety of poker games, including, but not limited, to Texas hold’em, Omaha-high, Omaha-hi/lo split eight or better, seven-card stud high, seven-card stud low, seven-card stud hi/lo split and seven-card stud hi/lo split eight or better.
  • Poker promotions and tournaments listed on site when available.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh live poker update

Information about Rivers Casino Pittsburgh Poker Room:

  • 30 tables
  • Poker promotions and tournaments listed on site when available

Wind Creek Bethlehem live poker update

Information about Wind Creek Bethlehem Poker Room:

  • 26 tables
  • Variety of games such as limit and no-limit Texas hold ’em, stud and Omaha. Limits starting at $3 and $6
  • Automated shufflers on every poker game
  • Bad Beat Jackpot available daily
  • Massage service

Lady Luck Nemacolin and Valley Forge do not have poker rooms. PlayPennsylvania exclusively reported that Harrah’s Philadelphia closed its WSOP-branded room in August.

More online poker operators coming to PA

PokerStars arrived in Pennsylvania in November 2019 and has been the state’s only operator for 11 months. Partypoker was rumored to be coming in the early fall, but like most party plans in 2020, it hasn’t happened.

Last week, the PGCB approved Caesars‘ online poker partner 888 Holdings for an interactive gaming manufacturer license. 888 Poker was the No. 1 poker website in the country last year. It has a self-branded poker platform, and its software powers World Series of Poker (WSOP) online and mobile sites.

It seems only a matter of time before both partypoker and WSOP.com make their way to PA.

Health and safety at PA casinos

When live poker starts again in Pennsylvania, here are a few things you should know in case you have not been to a casino since they reopened. Per the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, all casinos in the state must follow the COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols, which detail the minimum safety and health-related requirements that are mandatory before reopening.

Casinos may also choose to have additional measures, such as temperature checks at the entrance.

Key points to remember are:

  • Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity. (Rivers Casino Philadelphia is open at 25%.)
  • Employees and guests must wear masks.
  • There must be markings on the floor to promote social distancing.
  • Enhanced cleaning is required throughout the facility.

In addition, there is a current pause on smoking at casinos, no drink service on the gaming floor and no sitting at the bar.

Be sure to check back often as we continue to post updates on PA poker room reopenings here.

Lead image of Meadows poker room via AP Photo/Keith Srakocic.

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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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