Get In Line: Pennsylvania Casino Employees Soon Eligible For Covid Vaccines

Posted By Katie Kohler on March 31, 2021 - Last Updated on April 1, 2021

When will employees at Pennsylvania casinos be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine?

The state’s 13 brick-and-mortar casinos and one mini-casino are some of the largest employers in the state. Hospitality, which includes casino and hotel staff, is not listed in one of the eligible occupations for groups 1A, 1B, or 1C.

An announcement on Wednesday from the Pennsylvania Department of Health revealed that Pennsylvania’s casino employees, and the rest of the state, won’t have to wait too much longer.

All Pennsylvanians will be eligible to schedule vaccination appointments beginning April 19.

All Pennsylvanians eligible on April 19

If a casino worker fell into category 1A for Pennsylvania’s vaccination rollout, they were already eligible to receive a vaccine.

​Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said the state’s vaccine providers have “dramatically stepped up the pace of vaccinations” to an average of 83,000 per day.

“As we complete Phase 1A vaccinations, it’s time to open eligibility to more Pennsylvanians so providers can continue to fill appointments and efficiently, effectively and equitably vaccinate more people every day.”

President Biden has set May 1 as the date to make every person in the United States eligible for vaccination.

Sen. Art Haywood said:

“We can do it, we can make the change.”

Pennsylvania accelerated phase rollout:

  • March 31: Workers in the four targeted industries that Gov. Wolf and the Task Force announced on March 12:
    • Law enforcement, which includes police, sheriffs and deputies, constables, corrections officers and staff, as well as probation and parole staff.
    • Firefighters, including career and volunteer firefighters.
    • Grocery Store workers, including all workers in supermarkets and grocery stores.
    • Food and Agriculture workers, including all food processing company employees, including meat, poultry, and dairy processing, fresh fruit and vegetable packing operations, food manufacturing, all farmworkers, farm operators, and farm managers, including at urban agriculture operations.
  • April 5: All residents in Phase 1B will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments. 1C can schedule starting on April 12.
  • April 19: All residents will be eligible to start scheduling vaccination appointments.

Casinos in PA not saying much about process

PlayPennsylvania reached out to various casinos for comment about what, if anything, they were doing to inform employees about the vaccination process. Most politely declined to comment.

A spokesperson for Valley Forge Casino said:

“Getting people vaccinated is how we are going to beat this pandemic, and Valley Forge will be encouraging all team members to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible to do so.”

Some employees at Harrah’s Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia said nothing has been mentioned to them about vaccinations. An employee at Live! pointed out that there were links to information for vaccinations in the Tri-state available on the employee website.

Sources tell PlayPennsylvania that Valley Forge Casino offers employees paid time off (PTO) if they get vaccinated.

Due to workers’ terms of employment with casinos, they are not permitted to speak with the press. Information was given based on anonymity.

How to schedule a vaccine in Pennsylvania

Eligibility for a vaccine does not guarantee an immediate appointment…or one at your preferred location.

How to schedule a vaccine in Pennsylvania:

  • Residents should continue to use the Department of Health’s Vaccine Provider Map to find a vaccine provider nearest them.
  • People without internet access can contact the Health Hotline by calling 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).
  • Vaxx Max helps locate open vaccine appointments based on pharmacy and zip code.

New Jersey casino workers already eligible for vax

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy expanded vaccine eligibility to include casino workers.

The Press of Atlantic City reported that the Casino Association of New Jersey, AtlantiCare and Unite Here Local 54 are leading the effort to get shots in the arms of 25,000 Atlantic City casino workers by Memorial Day.

“Getting our local hospitality workers vaccinated is an important part of protecting our community and creating a safe, healthy environment for those who look forward to visiting our region every year,” said Lori Herndon, president and CEO of AtlantiCare.

The largest casino workers union in New Jersey, Local 54, is also working with AtlantiCare and the state to get more doses for casino workers.

MGM and Caesars bringing shot to workers

On March 11, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) issued a memo that stated all casino workers are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine effective immediately.

Nevada is making it a priority to up the vaccine rates for hospitality workers, which includes casino employees. The Las Vegas Review- Journal reported last week that local and state health officials in Southern Nevada okayed the allotment of 28,000 of the county’s 54,850-doses for public vaccination events to be prioritized for the hospitality industry.

Greg Cassell, incident commander for the Southern Nevada Health District, commented:

“Our economy is based on gaming and entertainment and restaurants and all the things that are associated with that. Having a healthy workforce is key to them being able to provide those services and get us back up to speed as a community with our primary industry.”

MGM Resorts is bringing the vaccine right to employees with a clinic at the Mandalay Bay resort convention center. MGM views vaccinations as “a critically important tool in helping to end the pandemic and accelerate our community’s economic recovery.”

Brian Ahern, an MGM spokesperson, said in a statement.

“We’re committed to doing all that we can to help get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible by removing barriers to access and bringing vaccination clinics directly to our employees.”

Caesars plans to start offering appointments on Thursday at the Rio All-Suites Hotel for all of their workers. The plan is 10,000 vaccinations in April. Caesars partnered with Albertsons supermarkets to dole out 2,000 doses per day.

Casinos as vaccination sites

Over forty casinos across the country serve as vaccination sites including Wind Creek Casino in PA.

Chris Cylke, senior vice president of government affairs for the American Gaming Association, said in a statement to Play Pennsylvania:

“The AGA recognizes the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations to our industry’s workforce and our future economic success. We’ve been proud to see gaming facilities continuing to lead recovery efforts and stepping up as part of the vaccination effort in many communities across the country, including Pennsylvania.”

Coronavirus impact on PA casinos, employees

The coronavirus pandemic closed land-based casinos in the state for about a third of the year in 2020. They reopened with increased health and safety protocols required by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and many casinos have added increased measures such as temperature checks at the entrances.

The pandemic had an immediate impact on the state’s nearly 17,000 employees. Pennsylvania residents currently make up 87% of table games employees. Most were furloughed in March when casinos first shut down.

According to the PGCB’s 2019-20 Gaming Diversity Report, the state’s 12 casinos (Live! Philadelphia and Pittsburgh were not open yet) employed 9,883 people, a 40.8% decrease.

The state announced plans to ease restrictions on capacity limits, reinstate bar service and allow alcohol to be served on the casino floor starting on April 4. However, casinos within Philadelphia city limits will maintain restrictions for longer.

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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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