Pennsylvania Casinos React To Coronavirus: Live Updates On PA Closures As Of May 22

Posted on March 13, 2020 - Last Updated on May 22, 2020

The coronavirus (COVID-19) has filled every aspect of life with uncertainty. As a result of coronavirus fears, Pennsylvania’s 12 brick-and-mortar casinos are already being impacted. PlayPennsylvania will continue to provide updates on casino closures here as they become available.

But there are still ways to play. Since July 2019, Pennsylvanians have had the option to gamble online. A Pennsylvania doctor says that during this period of social distancing, iGaming is a preferred option.

There are ten online casinos in PA:

As mentioned below, casino employees and others who are out of work or being affected by coronavirus closures may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation benefits. You can find more information from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry here.

For the latest on horse track closures and reopening plans, visit our live updates on track plans here.

Friday, May 22: Gov. Wolf moves some counties to green, but none have casinos. Full breakdown of each casino and where it stands in state’s phased reopening

Seventeen Pennsylvania counties will move to the green phase next week. However, none of them of are home to any of Pennsylvania’s twelve casinos. Pennsylvania is following a three-part, color-coded plan for reopening. Casinos cannot open until the green phase.

Casinos currently in the yellow phase (and their counties) are:

  • Presque Isle Downs (Erie)
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (Allegheny)
  • Lady Luck Nemacolin (Fayette)
  • The Meadows (Washington)

Casinos in the yellow phase (and their counties) on May 29:

  • Hollywood Casino (Dauphin)
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono Casino (Luzerne)
  • Mount Airy Casino (Monroe)

Casinos in red phase, becoming yellow on June 5:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia (Delaware)
  • Valley Forge Casino (Montgomery)
  • Parx (Bucks)
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia (Philadelphia)
  • Wind Creek Casino (Northampton)

During Gov. Tom Wolf’s Friday afternoon press conference, he announced that more counties will be moving to the yellow phase. As of Friday, 49 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties were in the yellow phase. The eighteen mostly eastern PA counties that are home to 60% of the state’s residents are still in the red phase which means stay-at-home orders until June 4. 

How is moving to the next phase in PA determined?

Various metrics are used such as:

  • Counties have to report fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over the course of 14 days
  • Testing capacity
  • Hospitalization rates

Friday, May 22: PGCB releases reopening rules for PA casinos, Rivers gives back, horse racing still shutdown but plans to meet PA gov

Pennsylvania casinos have been closed for over two months. This week began to offer some signs on how the twelve casinos can prepare to reopen. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released “COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols.”  It details the minimum safety and health-related requirements mandatory before reopening.

Key points to note in the 10-page document:

  • Employees and guests must wear masks
  • Markings on 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. Poker room operations will be re-examined based upon changing CDC and PA DOH guidance.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh teamed with other community organizations to donate over 33,000 meals. Rivers Casino Philadelphia also distributed food to the community.

The Meadows posted an update on their Facebook page on May 22. It read in part:

“We continue to work with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and state and local leaders to prepare for the eventual reopening of The Meadows Racetrack & Casino, but at this time do not have a scheduled date. Once a date is finalized we will post it here on Facebook and on our website.”

Parx Casino is hosting the virtual graduation for Bensalem High School on their big screens in the parking lot on June 12.

Horse racing came to a halt in Pennsylvania on March 16 despite continuing at a few other tracks across the country. The PA Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association apparently have a commitment to meet directly with members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration in the coming days for the first time since he ordered the shutdown. The PHBPA and Penn National management have agreed to open the race course ahead of Hollywood Casino, if the governor approves.

Friday, May 15: 49 PA counties soon to be in phase yellow, the first US casinos reopen, no casinos or live racing in PA until phase green

Thirteen additional counties moved from the red to yellow phase today, May 15 joining the 24 counties in the western part of the state that turned yellow last Friday. Gov. Wolf announced also announced today that 12 more counties would move into yellow next Friday, May 22.

By the end of next week, that will mean 49 counties in the yellow phase and the remaining 18 will still be in the red. You can see an updated map of PA county phases from Pittsburgh’s Action News 4 here.

It’s all part of a phased reopening plan explained below. While counties in the yellow designation have some restrictions eased, Wolf says no casinos, theaters or other entertainment venues will open until the green phase.

The same goes for live racing at PA horse tracks, Wolf told the PA Horse Racing Commission on Tuesday. For an up-to-date information on horse racing in PA and beyond, visit our horse track reopening status page.

Elsewhere in the US, some casinos – mostly tribal ones – have reopened their doors with restrictions. As of May 13, there were 23 casinos open, including 11 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Louisiana appears to be the next state poised to reopen casino doors.

Friday, May 8: Some PA counties with casinos move to yellow phase but remain closed, PLCB opens 77 stores, Harrah’s Philadelphia gives updates about tier status

Today, 24 counties moved from the red phase to the yellow phase. During a press conference on Friday, Gov. Wolf announced thirteen more counties will transition to the yellow phase next week. Most counties in the early stages of reopening are located in the northwest and north-central part of the state. It eases some restrictions, however casinos in Pennsylvania will remain closed.

Casinos in yellow phase counties:

  • Presque Isle Downs (Erie)
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (Allegheny)
  • Lady Luck Nemacolin (Fayette)
  • The Meadows (Washington)

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said 77 Fine Wine & Good Spirit stores are able to offer limited in-store access starting Friday.

Staff from Rivers Casino Philadelphia helped distribute over 700 boxes of food and 200 bags of produce to neighbors with West Kensington Ministry.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh posted a message on its Facebook page on Friday saying in part:

“The health and well-being of our Team Members and guests remains our number-one priority. We’re working closely with health experts and the PGCB to follow guidelines and best practices from the CDC. Everything we’re doing right now is in anticipation of a safe return for all.”

Harrah’s Philadelphia (Caesars) released an update about tier status and benefits.

Mount Airy Casino remains shuttered but their golf course is open and lots of cleaning is happening inside.

Monday, May 4: Harrah’s Philadelphia lays off most employees, construction restarts at Live!, horse racing still stalled, golf a go at Mount Airy

Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack laid off 1,127 employees effective March 28. According to Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) documents filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the closure is due to COVID-19 and expected to be temporary. A Pennsylvania Gaming Control report indicated that as of June 2019, Harrah’s employed 1,205.

As previously reported, Parx filed WARN documents and furloughed 2,224 employees on April 13. The majority are employed at the casino and 227 of those impacted are with Parx Racing.

The WARN Act is federal legislation that offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of a covered-business closing and covered-business mass layoff. But due to immediate closures as a result of COVID-19, companies were not able to give sixty days notice.

Construction restarted at Live! Casino Philadelphia on May 4.

When will horse racing start again in Pennsylvania? There is no timetable yet, but the Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission began early steps toward reopening racing in PA.

All casinos in Pennsylvania are still closed. However, Gov. Wolf opened golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds on Friday, May 1. Mount Airy golf course is open and you can book your tee time online.

Monday, April 27: Phases and target goals for reopening Pennsylvania and casinos

There is no definite date when casinos in Pennsylvania can reopen. But there are some stipulations that need to be in place.

Governor Wolf’s color-coded plan for reopening the state region-by-region does list casinos in one of the phases. Currently, PA is the red phase, which it has been since March, and is under stay-at-home orders until May 8. There are certain benchmarks the regions must hit before progressing to the yellow phase. However, the reopening of casinos is not in the yellow phase. It is in the green phase.

Here are some of the key points of the yellow phase:

  • Recreation and health and wellness facilities such as gyms and spas and all entertainment venues, including casinos and theaters, remain closed.
  • Stay at home restrictions lifted, large gatherings of 25 or more prohibited, in-person retail allowed (curbside or delivery preferable).

How will decisions be made on what regions to open and when? Pennsylvania partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and other institutions to develop a data dashboard to help inform decisions along with demographic and health criteria.

According to the Commonwealth, a target goal for reopening has been set at having an average of fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 reported to the department in the previous 14 days.

The target data goal is not the only metric to be met before reopening a region. Additionally, the Commonwealth must ensure there is:

  • Enough testing available for individuals with symptoms and target populations such as those at high risk, health care personnel, and first responders.
  • Robust case investigation and contact tracing infrastructure is in place to facilitate early identification of cluster outbreaks and to issue proper isolation and quarantine orders.
  • Identification of area’s high-risk settings including correctional institutions, personal care homes, skilled nursing facilities, and other congregate care settings. The facilities must have adequate safeguards in place such as staff training, employee screening, visitor procedures and screening, and adequate supplies of PPE to support continued operations.

On Monday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine did not have an estimate for when Philadelphia and the surrounding areas would move to the yellow phase. She did say that some parts of the state would enter the the yellow phase as early as the end of next week but not Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs.

Levine commented:

“I know it’ll be challenging in the southeast. We don’t know when Philadelphia will be able to go to yellow. We don’t know when the collar counties will. But it’s very important to have hope for the future, and we’ll get there.”

The casinos located in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs include Rivers Philadelphia, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Valley Forge Casino, and Parx.

Today, Wolf did announce that golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately owned campgrounds can reopen on Friday, May 1.

Said Wolf:

“As we start to take measured, limited steps to reopen our commonwealth, reopening these industries will help to rebuild our economy and strengthen our mental health.”

A full breakdown on coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is available here.

Friday, April 24: When will casinos in PA reopen? AGA fights for gaming employees, Wind Creek calls customers

When will Pennsylvania start to reopen?

Earlier this week, protesters went to Harrisburg to put pressure on PA Gov. Tom Wolf.  PA Republicans want the state’s economy open and passed legislation to reverse Wolf’s executive order.  However, Wolf vetoed the bill.

Wolf announced construction and online vehicles sales can resume starting on May 8. He did not mention any possible reopening dates for casinos or racetracks in the Commonwealth. PA’s online casinos remain up and running. Yesterday, Caesar’s, through its partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia, launched its online casino.

PA Sen. Doug Mastriano wants revenue from sports betting shifted to help pay property taxes instead of being allocated to the general fund.

The Small Business Administration revised their regulatory guidelines to permit size-eligible small gaming entities to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program. Over the past month, the American Gaming Association fought to have the original guidelines changed.

AGA President and CEO Bill Miller released the following statement on the updated regulations:

“I’m grateful to President Trump and his administration for recognizing that commercial and tribal gaming industry employees deserve the same support available to other small businesses, and for the significant, sustained efforts of members of Congress to amplify the need for changes to the guidelines to get small gaming operators and their employees through this challenging time.”

From the looks of of some Twitter mentions, Wind Creek Casino is calling card members to check in and ask how they are doing. Play Pennsylvania reached out to Wind Creek reps for comment but have not heard back yet.

 

Friday, April 17: Wind Creek pays scheduled host fee but long closure will hurt Bethlehem, Presque Isle Downs delays reopening of parts of track, sets date for live racing, Wind Creek cleans chips

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, said the city loses more than $800,000 each month Wind Creek Casino is closed.

Despite being closed since March 15, Wind Creek Casino paid its scheduled $2.5 million host fee to the city. LehighValleyLive.com reported that Pennsylvania offered for casinos to defer their first quarter host fee payments.

Rivers Philadelphia Community Relations and Facilities managers packed 300 cases of water to be donated to healthcare workers and first responders in the area.

Lady Luck Nemacolin posted a letter to team members on its Facebook page and Vice President and General Manager Gary Hendricks made a post to customers, and the community also.

Hold your horses! Presque Isle Downs announced they will delay the reopening of backside and stable areas until at least April 30. Live racing is scheduled to begin May 11.

Presque Isle Downs came to the decision after ongoing talks with the the President of the PA HBPA, Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Board, and public health officials amid public health.

Kevin O’Sullivan Vice President and General Manager of Presque Isle Downs said in a press release:

“Together, we are in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis and every tough decision we make is made with the best real time information we have from government officials and public health experts. We understand how trying the impact of this decision is on our horsemen, but we will continue to work tirelessly with public health experts toward a satisfactory resolution so our horsemen and their horses can return home safely as soon as possible.”

The Small Business Administration issued revised interim regulatory guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program. It will allow more small businesses that earn revenue from legal gaming to participate in the PPP. However, American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller said there is still much more work to be done:

“While these changes represent some progress, they fall woefully short of fully addressing antiquated, discriminatory policies that have, to date, restricted small gaming companies from accessing critical loan support made available through the CARES Act. As a result of this half-measure, small gaming businesses that have closed to comply with government orders will continue to be denied access to this critical lifeline to support their employees.”

Cleaning efforts are underway at Mount Airy Casino:

Monday, April 13: Crushing blow: Parx furloughs 2,224 employees, Rivers to furlough most employees this week

Parx Casino, one the largest employers in Bucks County, furloughed 2,224 employees on April 13. The majority are employed at the casino and 227 of those impacted are with Parx Racing.

According to Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act documents filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the closure is due to COVID-19 and expected to be temporary. Only the Greater Philadelphia YMCA (3,400) has more employees affected by coronavirus-related furloughs in Pennsylvania.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Rivers Casino will furlough “most” of its employees this week. No numbers were given on the number of employees affected. According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s 2018-2019 Annual Report, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh employed 1,779 and Rivers Casino Philadelphia (then Sugarhouse Casino) employed 1,593.

A statement from the casino says the furloughs are expected to last through June 30. Remaining employees will be subject to “substantial salary cuts.” All employees will continue to receive health benefits. Rivers Casino said it will reopen when “the state determines that it’s safe to do so.”

Thursday, April 9: PA schools closed for remainder of academic year, more Wind Creek employees test positive, Live! Hotel & Casino faces exemption woes, AGA pens letter to Trump

School’s out. Gov. Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania schools to remain closed for the rest of the academic year.

Previously, Wind Creek Casino confirmed three employees tested positive for coronavirus. On April 7, Wind Creek said more employees tested positive but didn’t indicate how many.

Live! Hotel & Casino, which is slated to open in Dec. 2020, continued construction due to a waiver but the project might not fit the terms of the exemption. The $700 million casino is facing other challenges. A major labor union pulled its workers from the site and at least two workers have tested positive for the virus.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia closed off its waterfront trail to the public but then decided to reconsider after “pressure from public officials,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The trail is currently open from sunrise to sunset. Casino reps told the Inquirer the closure was due to security concerns.

American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller sent a letter to President Trump in reference to the Paycheck Protection Program’s Interim Final Rules released by the Small Business Administration. It read in part:

“I respectfully request your immediate intervention to address a significant problem with the Paycheck Protection Program’s (PPP) Interim Final Rules released by the Small Business Administration (SBA). Specifically, these interim rules rely on antiquated, discriminatory policy that renders small gaming entities ineligible to receive critical loan assistance designed to help small businesses pay their employees…As it stands, the policy discriminates against these mainstream businesses and, more importantly, the hundreds of thousands of employees who rely on gaming for their livelihood.”

Tuesday, April 7: Wind Creek continues pay, PGCB ends paid leave for some, American Gaming Association calls on SBA to ditch “antiquated, discriminatory regulations” for sake of casino employees

Wind Creek Casino said it would continue to pay its 2,500 employees with benefits through May 31, a spokesperson told LehighValleyLive.com.

The Tribune-Democrat reported that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, like the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, would end paid leave for workers “idled by the governor’s order.”

Doug Harbach, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, told The Tribune-Democrat:

“Of course I don’t have to tell you that this continues to be a very fluid situation and is continually evolving. We still do not know how long this pandemic or the mandated closures of casinos will continue, but we remain committed to doing whatever is possible to support the industry and our employees.”

American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller expressed concerns about the interim regulatory guidelines issued by the Small Business Administration for the Paycheck Protection Program. The SBA is citing a 1996 federal regulation that says “businesses deriving more than one-third of gross annual revenue from legal gambling activities,” are ineligible.

“In SBA’s efforts to quickly issue guidance on the PPP, they relied on antiquated, discriminatory regulations that ignore today’s economic reality and the congressional intent behind the CARES Act, which states that any business concern shall be eligible to receive an SBA loan if they meet specific qualifications regarding their number of employees. Unless amended, these initial guidelines will irreparably harm one-third of the U.S. casino industry and the hundreds of thousands of Americans that rely on gaming businesses for their livelihood.

“This decision will affect hard-working Americans from Pennsylvania to Nevada, Ohio to Colorado, and everywhere in between who need and deserve the same level of support as anyone across the country during these unprecedented times. Moreover, as the AGA pointed out in a letter to SBA and the U.S. Department of Treasury, the inclusion of gaming businesses in the PPP is critical to help ensure employees can remain connected to their employers, stay off of unemployment, and quickly return to their jobs when this pandemic subsides.”

Wednesday, April 1: Wolf orders all of Pennsylvania to stay home, benefits for unemployed workers updated with CARES Act info, AG Shapiro says no evictions

Gov. Tom Wolf expanded the stay at home order to all of Pennsylvania. Before Wolf’s Wednesday press conference 33 of the state’s 67 counties were under stay at home orders. The governor called a statewide quarantine “the most prudent option.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that the state budget will take a hit in part due to the closure of casinos. Pennsylvania’s gambling tax revenue is nearly five times New Jersey’s. All forms of gaming — brick-and-mortar and, online casinos — generated nearly $125 million in taxes in February. With non-essential businesses like casinos closed for most of March and now “indefinitely,” only online casinos will provide tax revenue for the foreseeable future.

There is updated information for casino employees and others who are out of work at Pennsylvania’s Office of Unemployment Compensation. It includes updated information on the federal CARES Act. PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro told landlords and mortgage lenders they cannot evict during COVID-19 outbreak. If you believe that you have been wrongfully evicted from your home or wrongfully had your property foreclosed, you can file a complaint with the Office of Attorney General.

Monday, March 30: Wolf extends non-essential business closures indefinitely, Live! Casino continues construction

Gov. Wolf extended closures to non-essential businesses and schools indefinitely. A stay-at-home order is in place for 26 counties.

“We’re going to keep our schools and businesses closed as long as we need to keep them closed to keep Pennsylvania safe.I know this isn’t easy to hear but if we want to save lives we must continue to distance ourselves from each other.”

A Rivers Casino Philadelphia table games employee who last worked on March 12 tested positive for coronavirus.

Many questions have come stemming from what is essential and non-essential business. Action News reported about the continuing construction on Live! Casino Philadelphia since they were receiving calls about the construction site still operating.

According to Action News, a spokesperson for Gilbane Building Company which is building Live! Casino Philadelphia, said the company received a waiver since it is considered an important part of economic development for the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania.

Director of Corporate Communications for Gilbane Building Company, Wes Cotter said:

“Gilbane is following the stringent safety protocols that we have to keep everyone on the site safe and to keep it operating normally.”

Friday, March 27: Penn National Gaming furloughs employees, Parx remains closed, Two more Wind Creek employees test positive

A pair of announcements came from Penn National Gaming on Friday. Effective April 1, unpaid furloughs will begin for 26,000 employees across the organization.

The Pennsylvania-based company also revealed plans to sell two of their real estate assets to Penn’s principal landlord, Gaming & Leisure Properties. Penn’s Tropicana Las Vegas property and the projected mini-casino in Morgantown, PA will change ownership to GLPI. It’s a move meant to increase liquidity as Penn will receive $337.5 million in rent credits. 

In an email, Parx Casino said they will not be able to reopen on March 29 and that they have “received no indication from governmental authorities when we will be permitted to reopen.”

Two more employees at Wind Creek Casino tested positive for coronavirus. In a news release, ownership said “both of these Team Members exhibited symptoms after the property closure and were not in close proximity with other Guests or Team Members on property while being symptomatic.”

Thursday, March 26: Parx tax revenue earmarked for businesses impacted, PGCB meeting set, and Wind Creek nixes planned reopening date

Tax revenue collected from Parx Casino will be loaned to hospitality and tourism companies impacted by coronavirus. The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority marked $600,000 in gambling tax revenues for an emergency ecomomic rapid response zero-interest loan program, The Intelligencer reported.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s public meeting on April 1, at 10 a.m. will proceed as scheduled except it will occur telephonically.

The public can watch the upcoming meeting (and all meetings) by going to their website. Then, choose the “live” link in the meeting videos section to listen to the audio of the meeting.

In a Facebook post, Wind Creek Casino said they would not open on Sunday, March 29 as originally planned due to Gov. Wolf’s recent order to close non-essential businesses. Wind Creek did not mention a projected opening date.

When it comes to social distancing, Pennsylvania scores an “A” according to a social distancing scoreboard. It’s based on change in average mobility which has decreased by 40% in PA since Feb. 28.

Wednesday, March 25: PA casinos donate food to community

Some good news…

Since the casino closed, and we had all this great food on hand, we have donated over 6,000 pounds of food to the…

Posted by Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course on Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Yesterday, the Valley Forge Casino Resort delivered a large haul of produce to the Upper Merion Community Cupboard in…

Posted by Valley Forge Casino Resort on Friday, March 20, 2020

Mount Airy, Lady Luck Nemacolin, The Meadows also made food donations.

Tuesday, March 24: The Meadows donates personal PPE

The Meadows donated personal protective equipment to those who need it most. The Washington-PA based casino went through their inventory and gave 4,000 gloves and 900 masks to Washington Health System.

Today we went through our Personal Protection Equipment inventory and donated 4,000 gloves and 900 masks to Washington Health System. Stay safe out there! Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER.

Posted by The Meadows Racetrack & Casino on Monday, March 23, 2020

 

Monday, March 23: Stay-at-home orders to six counties and Philadelphia, Parx employee tests positive, AGA estimates $1.6 billion lost

Gov. Wolf announced stay-home-orders to Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Monroe and Allegheny counties. Philadelphia already issued its own stay-at-home order.

“Don’t leave your home unless someone’s life depends on you leaving,” said Wolf. The order starts tonight at 8 p.m. and takes effect for two weeks.

It would be a fair assumption that casinos which originally stated they would close for two weeks will prolong in accordance with the governor’s orders.

Fox29.com reported a casino floor employee at Parx Casino tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was last at the property on March 8.

The American Gaming Association said a two-month shutdown of the entire Pennsylvania industry will lead to $1.06 billion in lost economic activity. 

AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement on the toll coronavirus is wreaking on the country’s casino industry:

“Gaming is an economic engine, employing millions of local residents, generating community investment through vital tax revenue, and supporting small businesses in communities all across the country.”

 More information on COVID-19’s impact on U.S. casino industry workers and local communities can be found here. 

Friday, March 20: Shutdown order extended, coronavirus case at Wind Creek Casino, three members of 76ers test positive

Gov. Wolf extended shutdown orders to all but “life-sustaining” businesses on Thursday. Wolf took a more serious tone than his message on Monday when he said state-wide shutdowns to non-essential businesses such as casinos would be “self-enforced.” Now, Wolf’s shutdown orders apply the city of Philadelphia and business who do not follow could face penalties.

According to Wolf’s administration, “life-sustaining businesses” include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, farms, and transit systems. A full list can be found here.

Casinos in Pennsylvania have been quick to comply with Gov. Wolf’s orders. Valley Forge Casino was the first to close on March 13 and by March 17, all twelve casinos in Pennsylvania were shuttered.

Since the new shutdown order applies to construction, it would be safe to assume that Live! Philadelphia (projected opening Dec. 2020) will pause construction.

A Wind Creek Casino employee tested positive for COVID-19. The employee last worked “with limited public interaction” on Saturday which is when they started exhibiting symptoms, reports The Morning Call.

The Philadelphia 76ers released a statement on March 19 revealing that three members of the organization tested positive for COVID-19. The 76ers said that “certain individuals from the organization, including players, coaches and specific basketball operations support staff” were tested.

Thursday, March 19: Economic impact of closures, construction stoppages, potential casino bailouts

Yesterday, the PGCB released sports betting and online casino revenue numbers for February. Pennsylvania sportsbooks handle hit $330 million in bets and made $4.7 million in revenue. A total of 89% of the wagers were placed online. Online casinos in Pennsylvania reached record highs for wagers received and revenue.

Penn National Gaming halted construction of two Pennsylvania mini-casinos, Hollywood Casino Morgantown and Hollywood Casino York.

As casinos across the country close in response to the coronavirus, the industry has joined others in asking Congress for emergency financial helpThe Washington Post reported, it “could come in the form of a comprehensive bailout package, similar to what lawmakers may provide to airlines, cruise companies and the hospitality industry. Other possibilities include direct cash payments, deferred taxes or special bankruptcy protections.”

According to the the American Gaming Association, the gambling industry supports 1.8 million jobs. As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly all (94%) of the country’s commercial casinos have closed, in addition to 37% of tribal casinos. The closures impacted 96% of the casino workforce.

It would cost the U.S. economy of $21.3 billion in direct consumer spending if the casinos remain closed for the next eight weeks.

Tuesday, March 17: Resources for casino workers and others impacted by coronavirus

The PGCB 12th Annual Diversity Report (208-2019) revealed that Pennsylvania casinos collectively employ about 17,000 people. Ninety percent are residents are Pennsylvania. Some casinos have stated that they will continue to pay employees during the coronavirus closure.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry has resources and information regarding COVID-19. If you are employed in Pennsylvania and are unable to work because of coronavirus you may be eligible for Unemployment or Workers’ Compensation benefits. Information for Pennsylvania employees impacted by coronavirus can be found here.

If you are a casino worker who is not being paid during this time and want to share your story, please reach out to PlayPennsylvania at [email protected]

Tuesday, March 17: All casinos in Pennsylvania are closed, Online casinos open and operating

Pennsylvania’s remaining six open casinos closed at 6 a.m. All of the states twelve brick-and-mortar are now closed in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board says online casinos are still open.

Monday, March 16: Statewide shutdown, PGCB orders shutdown of remaining open casinos

By Monday morning, half of Pennsylvania’s twelve brick-and-mortar casinos were closed. At a 2 p.m. news conference, Gov. Wolf ordered a statewide shutdown of all non-essential businesses effective at midnight. When asked about casinos in Pennsylvania, Wolf said:

“The casinos in the counties originally targeted were asked to close and that will be true across the state. It’s a part of the broader message which is let us limit the opportunities for people to gather together. This has to be self enforced. It’s not the government mandating anything. It’s fellow public servants telling you what the right way to handle this public health crisis is. We are all in this together. Stay calm, stay safe, stay home. We are going to get through this.”

Governors in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut said all casinos in all three states will close at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 16.

Shortly after Wolf’s presser, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board instructed the remaining six open casinos to begin closing procedures and close by Tuesday, March 17 at 6 a.m. The PGCB said, “While the closure of the casinos is temporary, there is no specific indication of when reopening will occur.”

The six casinos in PA that will have to close by March 17 are:
  • Hollywood Casino 
  • Mount Airy Casino 
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Lady Luck Nemacolin
  • Meadows Casino and Racetrack
  • Presque Isle Racetrack and Casino

It should be noted, as a result of Parx’ temporary closure, South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook and Oaks Race and Sportsbook are also shuttered.

Saturday, March 14: Wind Creek Casino closing Sunday. State-run liquor stores in four counties to close on Tuesday

Wind Creek Casino announced around 9 p.m. on Saturday that it will close Sunday, March 15 at 6 a.m. due to the coronavirus pandemic. PA Governor Tom Wolf has not ordered closures in Northampton County like he has in Montgomery, Delaware, Chester, and Bucks County.

However, Wind Creek will close for two weeks and reopen at 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 20. Currently, half of Pennsylvania’s twelve brick-and-mortar casinos are scheduled to temporarily close. In a Facebook post, Wind Creek stated they would pay salaried and tipped employees during the temporary closure.

Wind Creek does not have an online casino or sportsbook.

Another notable closure announcement came from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The PLCB said by Tuesday, March 17, all state-run Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will close until further notice. More information about closures are on the PLCB’s website.

Saturday, March 14: Parx Casino announces Sunday closing as more PA counties are put on lockdown

Parx Casino is the latest to announce it will close on Sunday, March 15 at 6 a.m. until at least March 29. Parx is located in Bensalem Township, Bucks County. The announcement follows a directive from Gov. Wolf on Saturday.

With Montgomery and Delaware counties already under shutdown orders, Wolf added Chester and Bucks Counties to the list, effective Sunday. Now, all four of Philly’s suburban counties are on lockdown, with “all non-essential public spaces” subject to close.

Parx Racing had already closed on Friday.

“If we can slow the spread of the virus, we can flatten the curve,” Wolf said. “This is what we need to do and we need to do it now.”

In an email, Parx stated that during the two-week closure, they will continue to pay employees.

Friday, March 13: Harrah’s, Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, close temporarily due to Gov. Wolf’s orders on social distancing

Late Friday evening, Rivers Casino announced locations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse) would close for fourteen days starting on Sunday, March 15 at midnight.

In a press release, Rivers said:

“Although there have been no known cases of COVID-19 at the property, we are suspending operations out of an abundance of caution and to promote the social distancing recommended by health officials.”

Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester plans to temporarily close starting on Saturday, March 14 at 6 a.m. Like Rivers Casinos and Valley Forge Casino, there have been no reported cases to date at the location. Harrah’s racetrack will also be be closed.

BetRivers is still available for online casino play and sports betting. Harrah’s just launched its online sportsbook but does not offer iGaming yet.

Friday, March 13: Valley Forge Casino closes doors, President Trump declares state of emergency

Valley Forge Casino closed its doors at 6 a.m. on Friday with the plan to remain closed for 14 days.

Then, President Donald Trump declared a national emergency during a 3:30 p.m. press conference. The move made available up to $50 billion to help states deal with the crisis.

Parx Racing stopped all live racing for the next two weeks and will close the racetrack in Bensalem. Parx Casino remains open for the time being.

Thursday, March 12: PA Gov. Wolf orders closures

Valley Forge closes its doorsPennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closure of all entertainment venues and more community gathering places in Montgomery County starting on Friday, March 13, for a period of 14 days. 

Montgomery County is being called the epicenter for the virus in Pennsylvania due to its 13 presumed cases of coronavirus to date. Wolf did not specifically mention casinos in his 2 p.m. press conference Thursday. Valley Forge Casino is the only casino in Montgomery County.

During an early evening visit to Valley Forge Casino, the FanDuel sportsbook was empty. However, there was a crowd of people at blackjack tables, the craps table, and a wide age range (even elderly) playing at the slots.

At around midnight, Valley Forge Casino posted this on its Facebook page:

An Update for Our Valued Guests:Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf today ordered the closure of all public schools,…

Posted by Valley Forge Casino Resort on Thursday, March 12, 2020

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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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