Pennsylvania Casinos Can Return to 100 Percent Capacity on Memorial Day

Posted on: May 6, 2021, 10:51h. 

Last updated on: July 7, 2021, 01:34h.

Pennsylvania casinos, for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, will soon be free of reduced operating capacity restrictions.

Pennsylvania casino online gambling Wolf
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) is seen in an undated file photo. The governor is allowing state casinos to operate without reduced capacity restrictions beginning on Memorial Day. (Image: Times Leader)

On the same day that New Jersey announced that Atlantic City casinos can return to 100 percent capacity effective May 19, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said state casinos can do the same, but beginning on Memorial Day.

Pennsylvania is home to 14 commercial casinos. Four more are on the way, though those facilities are so-called “satellite casinos” that can house up to 750 free slot machines and 30 table games.

At 12:01 am ET on Monday, May 31, the casino floors will no longer be subject to capacity limits. Since April 4, the casinos have been limited to operating at 75 percent capacity of their fire code, though there have been no reports of the gaming floors being forced to turn away gamblers.

Despite lifting capacity limits on Memorial Day, employees and guests must continue to wear face masks while indoors unless actively eating or drinking. The temporary ban on indoor smoking remains. Prior to the pandemic, Pennsylvania casinos were permitted to designate up to 50 percent of their gaming floor for smoking.  

Mask Mandate

Wolf says if Pennsylvanians want to walk into a business, including casinos, and not be required to wear a mask, then they need to get vaccinated. The second-term governor says once 70 percent of adults in Pennsylvania are fully vaccinated, he will lift the mask order.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 50.1 percent of all adults have received at least one dose as of May 6. The health agency says 32.2 percent are fully vaccinated by receiving two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer shots, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.

Brick-and-Mortar Rebuild

Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, the nation’s second-richest behind only Nevada, benefited from having full-scale legal iGaming during the pandemic. 

Online casinos generated 2020 gross gaming revenue of $565.7 million. The interactive internet gaming platforms only went live in July of 2019, so there is no reasonable year-over-year comparable. 

However, Wolf’s closure of land-based casinos, which ran from mid-March until a gradual geographical reopening approach that began in June, devastated brick-and-mortar gaming revenue. In 2020, slots and table games inside physical casinos totaled $1.86 billion. That’s a decrease of $1.4 billion — or 43 percent — from 2019 when the land-based casinos reported GGR of $3.26 billion.

With vaccines continuing to be put in arms, and Wolf lifting capacity restrictions, casinos are hoping guests will return in large numbers. 

Penn National Gaming, the oldest casino operator in the state, will have three gaming venues once its satellites in York and Morgantown open later this year. It said today during its Q1 earnings call that it’s experiencing “strong demand” across its nationwide portfolio.