The sky during the first weekend in May is a brilliant blue and the temperatures hover around 70 degrees. The sun is so bright it could almost blind you into believing that it’s a normal spring day.
But it isn’t.
Pennsylvania is in the midst of a shutdown caused by coronavirus. Things don’t look like they did in early March. People wearing masks. Empty parking lots. Congestion-free roads. Boarded up storefronts.
It’s a much different scene at casinos, too. Casinos in Pennsylvania have been closed for a historically long period. And there is no target date for reopening, as of yet.
Animated signs have gone dark. Parking lots that once welcomed a stream of cars sit empty. Printed signs taped to locked doors.
It would have been Round Two of the NHL and NBA Playoffs. The Kentucky Derby was set for May 2. You couldn’t help but wonder what the scene would have been like at PA casino sportsbooks. Instead, it was Sunday silence.
At each casino, I remained in the car or when I was outside there was no one around me. Within a few minutes, security guards (usually in white SUVs) told me the property was closed and to move along.
Valley Forge Casino
Valley Forge Casino, the region’s only full-amenity gaming resort, looked like a ghost town. It was the first casino closed in PA on March 13.
It was smooth, traffic-free driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Parx, Pennsylvania’s largest casino in terms of size and total revenue, isn’t immune to the eerie emptiness of COVID-induced closures. The three animated billboards were black.
I could not get close to Rivers Philadelphia. Barriers set up in front of the parking garage blocked entrance.
Next to Rivers Philadelphia at Penn Treaty Park, a socially distanced, but mostly un-masked smattering enjoyed the outdoors. Some set up on the grass and others hit the riverfront trail.
SCI Chester, the medium security prison next door, had more cars in the parking lot than Harrah’s Philadelphia. Security quickly told me to turn around after entering the lot.
My favorite cheesesteak place in Philadelphia, John’s Roast Pork, was closed. I opted for curbside takeout of Nashville chicken hot buns at Bud and Marilyn’s instead. But I did do a drive-by at the famous Geno’s. The customers aren’t a “wiz” at social distancing.