This is a developing story. PlayPennsylvania reached out to various PA casinos for comment and is awaiting a response. We will update as additional information becomes available.
It will be a much different Memorial Day for Pennsylvania casinos this year. Last year at the unofficial start of the summer, all casinos were closed to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Tom Wolf said on Tuesday Pennsylvania will lift all COVID-19 restrictions, except mask wearing in public, on Memorial Day.
Pennsylvania casinos can expand capacity to 100%. In addition, there will be no limits at bars or restaurants.
The operative word here, for now, is “can.” When the state first started with shutdown orders last March, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ordered the state’s remaining open casinos to close in mid-March. Before reopening, the Board released COVID-19 reopening protocols.
What PA casinos will choose to do in terms of added capacity and the additional measures they put in place such as plexiglass remains to be seen. It’s been one day since Gov. Wolf’s announcement and there are no doubt internal discussions happening as we write this.
Following Wolf’s announcement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley did not indicate if the city of Philadelphia would follow suit and said they would review the state’s plan. However on Wednesday, Philadelphia City Council members chided Farley for not setting a reopening date. Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia are within the city’s limits and subject to its rules.
Long road back for Pennsylvania casinos
The coronavirus pandemic shuttered Pennsylvania casinos for a third of the year in 2020. It had a devastating impact on the 20,000 PA casino employees, as well as casino revenue and the state’s tax coffers.
Timeline of Pennsylvania casino closures for COVID
- March 12: The first casino in Pennsylvania closed to stop the spread of coronavirus.
- June 9: The first two casinos reopened in the state — Rivers Casino Pittsburgh and The Meadows.
- July 17: Rivers Casino Philadelphia, the only remaining shuttered casino, resumed operations
- Dec. 12: Casinos ordered to close for at least three weeks due to rising case counts and hospitalizations
- Jan. 4, 2021: PA casinos reopened
However, even when casinos reopened in the summer and then again in January, they were not allowed to serve alcohol on the gaming floor or offer seating at the bar.
It wasn’t until April 4 that Pennsylvania eased these restrictions.
- Casino capacity in PA raised from 50% to 75%.
- Restaurants resumed bar service.
- Alcohol service allowed without the purchase of food.
- The curfew for removing alcoholic drinks from tables was lifted.
Atlantic City Casinos all in on Memorial Day
Headed to Atlantic City or to New Jersey beaches this summer? New Jersey is ending restrictions starting on May 19 and some changes will go into effect as soon as this weekend.
For Atlantic City casinos, it means full capacity is back on the table. Restaurants, bars, retail, pools and spas also got the go-ahead to lift capacity limits. Starting Friday, people can once again sit at a bar or eat at a buffet in New Jersey.
Pennsylvania casinos on a hiring spree
With expanded capacity limits, drink service returning and an increasing number of people fully vaccinated, Pennsylvania casinos have been actively hiring.
Last week, Valley Forge Casino held a job fair. Many of the state’s casinos have upped their recruiting efforts with ads on social media.
PA in Top 5 for vaccine
According to the CDC, as of May 5, about 42% of Pennsylvanians over 18 are fully vaccinated. With 8.8 million jabs given so far, PA ranks fifth in the US for total doses administered,
How long will masks be required?
The PA Dept. of Health said the current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam said:
“We continue to make significant progress in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and as more Pennsylvania adults get vaccinated and guidance from the CDC evolves, we can continue to move forward with our reopening efforts. I encourage Pennsylvanians to take the critical steps needed to put this pandemic behind us by getting vaccinated, follow through with both doses if you receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, and continue to take steps like masking, frequent hand washing and sanitizing and social distancing.”
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar