Pennsylvania Casino Shutdown Came Day After Industry Pleaded with Gov. Tom Wolf

Posted on: December 11, 2020, 09:33h. 

Last updated on: December 11, 2020, 11:38h.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has ordered the state’s 13 casinos to close their doors for a little more than three weeks. Naturally, the gaming industry isn’t happy about it.

Pennsylvania casinos skill gaming machines
Casinos with COVID-19 safeguards in Pennsylvania must close, but unregulated “skill gaming” machines in convenience stores will likely remain on during the latest shutdown. (Image:

Wolf announced new COVID-19 mitigation efforts yesterday, as new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge across the Commonwealth. The governor is forcing casinos to close Friday, Dec. 12 at 12:01 am ET, and stay shuttered until at least 8 am on Monday, Jan. 4.

Just hours before Wolf’s latest directive, nine representatives from Pennsylvania casinos wrote the governor urging him to allow the casinos to remain open.

“Over the last 10 months, our industry has demonstrated a willingness to work cooperatively with the Administration and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to take extraordinary — and absolutely necessary — measures to stem the spread of this virus and keep our employees and customers safe,” the letter declared. “Collectively, we have invested tens of millions of dollars to install every safeguard imaginable.

The record shows that we have successfully managed the pandemic. There is no evidence that casinos are a source of COVID-19 spread,” the plea continued.

Despite additionally touting the $1.5 billion in tax revenue Pennsylvania casinos deliver the state each year, and no claims that casinos have spread the coronavirus, Wolf nonetheless ordered the brick-and-mortar gaming facilities to close effective tomorrow.

Unregulated Machines Persist

Wolf, who tested COVID-19 positive this week, says suspending brick-and-mortar casino gambling, as well as indoor dining and gatherings of more than 10 people, will “help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season and closer to a widely available vaccine.”

One major issue the signatories of the casino letter to Wolf have is that unregulated so-called “skill gaming” machines will continue operating as normal.

The machines, which resemble slots but have a minor skill element that involves the player identifying a winning pay line, have proliferated in the Commonwealth. The unregulated and untaxed terminals, which are the subject of numerous state lawsuits regarding their legality and whether law enforcement has the authority to seize the devices, are commonly found in convenience stores and restaurants.

“Operators of illegal ‘skill’ slot machines have not closed down these devices, despite the obvious health risk they pose to customers in gas stations, pizza parlors, and convenience stores statewide. It would be a perverse and ironic outcome if casinos operating with the highest levels of safety are required to close, while illegal operators without safety protocols continue to do business as usual,” the letter contends.

The petition was signed by representatives of Hollywood, Lady Luck, Live! Philadelphia, Live! Pittsburgh, The Meadows, Mohegan Sun, Parx, Presque Isle, and Wind Creek.

Ready for January

Owner and operator of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, and the oldest gaming company in the Keystone State — told it will again work with state authorities on a reopening plan.

“We have been successfully operating under comprehensive health and safety protocols, in addition to significantly reduced capacity levels. We will continue to work closely with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, state and local leaders, and public health officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we hope to resume operations as quickly as possible,” Schippers added.