Pennsylvania Casinos Ordered to Close December 12, Remain Shuttered Through January 4

Posted on: December 10, 2020, 03:10h. 

Last updated on: December 10, 2020, 03:34h.

The 12 casinos in Pennsylvania that are operating today will be forced to close this Saturday, December 12, at 12:01 am ET.

Pennsylvania casinos COVID-19 coronavirus
After finding a way to actually grow gross gaming revenues since reopening in June, Pennsylvania casinos are once again being forced to close on Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders. (Image: PA Governor’s Office)

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Today, the second-term governor announced sweeping coronavirus restrictions on various businesses across the Commonwealth — and the mitigation efforts include a ban of commercial gambling.

“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals. First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth,” Wolf explained. “Second, keep our hospitals and healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed. And third, help Pennsylvanians get through the holiday season — and closer to a widely available vaccine — as safely as possible.

This is a bridge to a better future in Pennsylvania,” the governor declared.

Rivers Casino in Philadelphia was forced to close November 20 on city orders. Now, the other 12 gaming venues in the Keystone State will shut down, too. Live! Casino Pittsburgh, the first satellite casino in Pennsylvania, only opened its doors on November 24.

Pennsylvania is the nation’s third-largest gaming market behind Nevada and New Jersey. Online gaming and mobile sports betting will continue during the land-based casino closures. The earliest they will be allowed to reopen, Wolf says, is January 4 at 8 am ET.

COVID-19 Spread

As is the case in so many other states, Pennsylvania is experiencing a significant spike in new positive COVID-19 results. There has also been an increase in deaths.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Heath Dr. Rachel Levine said that in each of the last two days, the state has reported its highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The virus continues to strain our healthcare systems and the dramatic rise in cases among all age groups, including among school-age children, is alarming,” Levine said.

Wolf cited the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) saying entertainment gatherings indoors are “higher-risk activities.” Casinos are grouped with the mandatory closures of theaters, concert venues, museums, arcades, bowling alleys, recreation centers, and private clubs.

Casinos Were Managing

Despite ongoing restrictions, including operating at reduced capacities, Pennsylvania’s gaming industry has performed well since being permitted to reopen in June.

In the third quarter of 2020, gross gaming revenue (GGR) from land-based operations, online casinos, and brick-and-mortar and mobile sports betting totaled $891.3 million. That’s a 3.8 percent premium on July, August, and September 2019.

Requiring the gaming venues to again shutter will almost certainly return their year-over-year GGR results for the fourth quarter into the red.

While the CDC says indoor entertainment is risky, casinos are equipped with highly complex ventilation systems that routinely bring in new air. For instance, Rivers Casino Pittsburgh says its air system “is proven to be over 99.9 percent effective in neutralizing coronavirus on surfaces.”

Last month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board reported that less than one percent of workers employed inside the physical casinos in the state have tested COVID-19 positive. A total of 108 casino workers became infected with the coronavirus.