Second Wave of Philadelphia Restrictions Closes Rivers Casino, Bans Eagles Fans

Posted on November 16, 2020 - Last Updated on November 23, 2020

Rivers Casino Philadelphia will close on Friday, Nov. 20, and not reopen until at least Jan. 1, 2021, as a result of a series of changes to the current restrictions by the City of Philadelphia to slow the surge of coronavirus cases.

Also, fans may no longer attend games at Lincoln Financial Field. Under the “Safer at Home” order, gatherings cannot exceed 2,000 people in any outdoor space.

“We may be tired of COVID, but COVID’s not tired of us,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley.

New restrictions for Philadelphia

In a press release that detailed the new “Safer at Home” restrictions, casinos fall under the category of “business and activities that are not allowed.”

Currently, Rivers Casino Philadelphia is the only casino within Philadelphia city limits. Live! Casino Philadelphia is scheduled to open in early 2021. The South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook, according to the orders, will also have to temporarily close.

During a Monday afternoon press conference, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pointed out that the average number of reported COVID-19 positive cases has jumped at least 700% in less than two months. The average number of new cases reported per day last week was higher than the number of reported cases during the worst week in April.

“Strains on our hospitals are already showing,” said Kenney, who added that hospitalizations have jumped 600% in the last seven weeks.

“We do not take any of this lightly. Believe me, more than anything in the world, I wish none of this was necessary. But there is no doubt these changes are necessary. We need to act now to reduce the rate of increase and flatten the curve once again.”

The City of Philadelphia reported 2,564 new coronavirus cases and eight new deaths on Monday.

Rivers Philadelphia road to reopening

Rivers Casino Philadelphia voluntarily closed in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit Pennsylvania. It remained shuttered for four months and reopened on July 17. That marked the longest coronavirus-caused closure of any brick-and-mortar casino in PA.

Upon reopening, all casinos in PA followed health and safety guidelines from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

In addition, Rivers Casino Philadelphia conducted temperature checks, operated at 25% capacity (50% was the limit at other casinos) and upgraded its HVAC system to include airPHX, a patented technology that continuously disinfects indoor air and eliminates coronavirus on surfaces. The casino also has AtmosAir, an indoor air quality purification system that has proven to neutralize coronavirus by more than 99.9%.

Will other casinos in PA close again too?

On Friday, Play Pennsylvania asked the PA Department of Health if the rising numbers meant a return to the color-coded phases and possible temporary closures for casinos in Pennsylvania.

A representative responded:

“There is no plan at this time to return to the red, yellow, green mitigation steps and stay-at-home order that occurred in the spring.”

During Monday’s press conference, Farley urged surrounding counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join Philadelphia in enacting similar measures.

The closest casinos to Philadelphia (with Rivers closed) include:

  • Harrah’s Philadelphia (Delaware County)
  • Valley Forge Casino (Montgomery County)
  • Parx Casino (Bucks County)

Atlantic City is about an hour drive from Philadelphia.

Fans barred from the Linc again

In mid-October, the Philadelphia Eagles got the green light to allow fans back at Lincoln Financial Field. The stadium occupancy was 7,500 people, which included players, coaches, team and stadium personnel. It allowed for 5,500 to 6,000 fans to be in attendance.

Mayor Kenney said the new orders will be in effect until “at least January 1.”  The Eagles’ last home game is Jan. 3 against the Washington Football Team.

Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as additional information is released.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Rich Schultz

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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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