No Drinking on the Gaming Floor: PA Casinos Open, But Not Their Bars

Posted on July 17, 2020

Every county in Pennsylvania is still in the green phase which means that casinos in Pennsylvania are open. However, there are additional regulations. On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf nixed bar service. As part of new restrictions, bars can’t serve alcohol unless it is with a meal.

What does this mean for PA casinos?

No drink service, sitting at the bar, and a lower capacity limit at restaurants.

Rise in COVID cases

A recent rise in COVID cases influenced the decision for increased statewide mitigation efforts. Governor Wolf and Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed new orders that take effect at 12:01 a.m., Thursday, July 16.

“During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases,” Gov. Wolf said. “When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly two thousand new cases that day with other days’ cases hovering around 1,000. Medical experts looking at the trajectory we are on now are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid case increases we need to act again now.”

According to a June 23rd press release, Pennsylvania continues to ramp up contact-tracing efforts. As of June 18 (the most recent data available), there were a total of 518 contact tracers, and a total of 4,161 contacts under investigation.

Wardle commented about contact tracing:

“Our case investigations have provided us with information that bars and restaurants are the sources of some of the increases in cases.”

PA casinos open, but not their bars

Casinos can stay open as part of Gov. Wolf’s new orders.

Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson Nathan Wardle clarified for PlayPennsylvania.

“Casinos can remain in operation with the previously announced mitigation orders on masking and social distancing in place, but bars and restaurants within a casino will be impacted by the new orders issued by the governor and Secretary of Health, as well as private events that might be held within a casino.”

Updated restrictions for bars and restaurants include:

  • Prohibition from conducting operations unless the facility offers sit-down, dine-in meals or is serving take-out sales of alcoholic beverages. All service must be at a table or booth. No bar service.
  • Alcohol can only be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal.
  • Occupancy may not exceed 25% for indoor dining, or 25 persons for a discrete indoor event or gathering in a restaurant. The maximum occupancy limit includes staff. (The previous occupancy limit for indoor dining was 50%).

Updated health and safety guidelines at PA casinos

Another fixture of casinos is now (temporarily) absent from the gaming experience. Wardle confirmed that casinos are may not sell alcoholic beverages on the gaming floor.

Last week, due to an updated mandate that masks must be worn in all public spaces, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board informed casinos that smoking was temporarily banned.

All 12 of Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar casinos closed by March 17. What was at first believed to be a two-week shutdown, turned into over one hundred days of darkness. Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and The Meadows were the first casinos to welcome back guests on June 9.

Casinos in the state must follow the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols. It details the minimum safety and health-related requirements that are mandatory before reopening.

Some key points include:

  • Casinos can reopen at 50% capacity
  • Employees and guests must wear masks.
  • Markings on the floor to promote social distancing.
  • Enhanced cleaning throughout the facility.
  • Poker rooms are not authorized to operate due to players handling of cards and chips.
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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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