Great Unknowns Surround Reopening of Pennsylvania’s Casinos

Unlike other states that have set casino reopening dates, there are many unknowns surrounding the reopening of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos and three off-track betting parlors.

However, there is one thing that is certain, when these properties resume operations, they will look and feel different.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on Wednesday released a 10-page document containing minimum protocols for the state’s casino operators to follow as they begin to reopen their properties. The protocols aim to curb the advance of the coronavirus.

Both casino employees and patrons will be required to wear face masks on the gaming floor. In addition, the gambling facilities will have to install plexiglass barriers between slot machines and at gaming tables. The properties will also be required to feature a plenty of hand-sanitizer stations.

These are only few of the guidelines set out by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in relation to the pending reopening of the state’s casinos.

Kevin O’Toole, Executive Director of the regulatory agency, said on Wednesday that they want to “assure that reopenings occur in a manner which promotes the safety of casino patrons and employees alike as well as assure an environment conducive to proper regulatory oversight.”

Mr. O’Toole added that the minimum protocols included in the document were based on “best-practices guidelines” as well as on plans submitted by casino operators.

No Reopening Date Yet

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board did not announce a date on which the state’s brick-and-mortar gambling venues will reopen. And there will not be a universal reopening date for all casinos in the Keystone State, it seems.

Under an order by Gov. Tom Wolf, casinos and other indoor entertainment facilities cannot resume operations until the counties they are located in move into the green phase. Under the Governor’s three-phase reopening plan, which includes red, yellow, and green phases, the third, green, phase is when all restrictions are lifted.

It is believed that casinos in Western Pennsylvania could reopen first as the outbreak of coronavirus was less severe in that part of the state. The four casinos in the Philadelphia area will likely be among those to open at a later stage, because Southeastern Pennsylvania is currently in the red phase, which means that portion of the state is struggling with severe outbreak of the dangerous virus.

The protocols released by the gambling regulator caused major disappointment to avid poker players. The state’s casinos will not be allowed to reopen their poker rooms “due to players handling cards and chips.” Their reopening will be subject to reevaluation based on changing guidance from state and national health officials.

April was the worst month in history of regulated gambling in Pennsylvania. Gaming revenue dropped 84% year-on-year from $284 million in April 2019 to just $46 million. The majority of that came from online gambling, which the state permitted last summer.

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