Pennsylvania Casinos Can Return to 100% Capacity on Memorial Day

Pennsylvania Symbol With a Slots Background
Memorial Day 2021 will be different for Pennsylvania casinos.

Beset by state-ordered closures during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania casinos were closed on Memorial Day 2020 in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. This year, the state will lift all COVID-19 restrictions except the wearing of face mask.

In a statement, Governor Tom Wolf said that Pennsylvania casinos can return to 100% operating capacity on Memorial Day. In addition, the limits on bars and restaurants will also be lifted.

Philly to Review State Plan

After Gov. Wolf’s announcement, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley did not say if the City of Brotherly Love will follow suit. Rather, Farley said that the Commission would review the state’s plan first.

Farley’s statement drew a violent reaction from Philadelphia’s council members who countered that Farley should set a reopening date since the Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia are within the city’s boundaries and as such, are subject to its rules.

Operative Word is “Can”

After last year’s forced closure of Pennsylvania casinos for 100 days, the state gaming board released COVID-19 protocols for reopening. But with the state now allowing them to return to 100% operating capacity, it remains to be seen what the Pennsylvania casinos will do in terms of added capacity and what additional health and safety measures they put in place.

With Pennsylvania Casinos returning to 100% capacity and the increasing number of residents getting vaccinated, these gambling companies have started actively hiring. Last week, the Valley Forge Casino held a job fair. Most of the Pennsylvania casinos have upped their recruitment efforts by posting job ads in social media.

PA Casino Revenue Plummeted in 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania casinos racked up a total of 1,500 closure days which would be equivalent to ⅓ of the number of days the casinos would have operated normally. Because of that Pennsylvania casino revenue in 2002 plummeted with land-based casino revenue nearly halved.

According to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the state’s 13 casinos, fantasy sports operators, and truck stops generating a total revenue of $2.65B in 2020. That among was a significant drop from the $3.B taken in by 12 Pennsylvania casinos in 2019, or a 22% drop.

Bally’s Corporation to Construct $120M Casino Near Penn State

Bally's Atlantic City
Bally’s Corporation announced on Monday that it has entered into an agreement with former Penn State University trustee Ira Lubert for the design, development, construction, and operation of a Category 4 licensed Pennsylvania casino.

The said casino will have up to 750 slot machines and feature 30 table games, and it will be built near the “Nittany Mall” which is located about four miles from the Penn State campus. According to Bally’s the Pennsylvania casino will also have a retail sports betting shop, online sports betting, and online gaming, subject to separate licenses.

Per Bally’s Chief Executive Officer George Papanier:

“Expanding our rapidly growing, national footprint into the attractive Pennsylvania gaming market represents yet another major milestone for Bally’s and a great way to cap off a truly extraordinary year. Regional, land-based casinos remain the cornerstone of our portfolio diversification strategy, providing the necessary support for the growth, development and success of our future sports betting and iGaming initiatives. We look forward to combining our own proven track record of greenfield development with Ira Lubert’s local knowledge and expertise to bring Bally’s first-in-class gaming experience and amenities to customers and sports fans across Pennsylvania.”

Bally’s Will Acquire Majority Interest

Under the agreement, Bally’s will acquire a majority interest in the partnership, including 10% of the economic interests of all retail sports betting, online sports betting, and iGaming operations related to the project. Including construction and licensing costs, Bally’s estimates the cost of the Pennsylvania casino to be $120M.

According to Bally’s, construction will start during the first half of 2021 and will take approximately one year to finish. Once completed, it will be Bally’s first casino in Pennsylvania. The company owns or manages 11 gambling properties across seven states and will add three more in new states, including the Pennsylvania project.

About Ira Lubert

Lubert graduated from Penn State in 1973. The well-known real estate and property equity investor has been part of casino developments in Pittsburgh and Valley Forge. He served as chair of the Penn State Board of Trustees in 2016 and of the six-man committee that hired Bill O’Brien as the school’s football coach in 2012.

The chairman and co-founder of Lubert-Adler was recently awarded by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board the right to apply for a Category 4 slot machine license for a casino to be constructed within a 15-mile radius of Unionville Borough, Center County, Pennsylvania. Lubert has a minority founding investment in Rivers Casino.

Pennsylvania Casinos Ordered Closed Starting December 12th

Roulette Wheel and Row of Slot Machines
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf has ordered the closure of various businesses including casinos in an effort to slow down the out-of-control spread of the coronavirus in the Keystone state.

The closure is set to take effect on Saturday, December 12, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. and will end on January 4, 2021, at 8:00 a.m. The orders are the most drastic since Wolf shut down all non-essential businesses last March at the onset of the pandemic. Aside from casinos, the order also covers indoor restaurant dining, sports activities, gyms, museums, bowling alleys, theaters and other entertainments venues. Likewise, all businesses serving the public will be limited to 50% capacity only.

In a statement, Wolf said:

“With these measures in place, we hope to accomplish three goals. First, stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. 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.”

COVID-19 Spread

As in the case with many other states in the U.S., Pennsylvania is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. With its shutdown, Pennsylvania becomes the third state to declare full casino shutdown. Last November 18, Michigan closed all casinos in a move that was first said to be good for three months but now has been changed to indefinitely. Two days after the Wolverine state, Illinois also declared an indefinite shutdown.

One of the fears in Pennsylvania is that the hospitals and health care workers could get overwhelmed. As of Thursday noon,there were a total of 5,877 people hospitalized with COVID-19, the most since the pandemic started. Gov. Wolf is hoping that the three-week shutdown of will slow down the numbers.

Pennsylvania Gaming Was Doing Well

Pennsylvania gaming were doing well despite the earlier restrictions. During the third quarter of 2020, the gross gaming revenue (GGR) from land-based casinos, online casinos, and brick-and-mortar sports betting shops totaled $891.3M which is 3% more than the July-September 2019 figures. Requiring them to shut down again will affect whatever gains they had.

There are a total of 12 Pennsylvania casinos and racinos with a total gaming revenue of $3.38B in 2019. The Philadelphia gaming market ranked 7th among the United States gaming industry’s top markets, per the American Gaming Association’s 2019 State of the States report. Rivers Casino, the only casino within the Philadelphia limits, has been closed since November 20. With the governor’s new orders, the other Philadelphia area casinos including Parx and Harrah’s Philadelphia will now be closed as well.

Cordish Launches PlayLive! Site in Pennsylvania

Maryland Live! Casino
Cordish Companies’ PlayLive! became the first branded internet gambling site to launch before its brick and mortar facilities have opened.

The online gambling business was launched on Monday, ahead of the opening of the company’s two casino projects in the Keystone State. Cordish’s Live!Casino Pittsburgh and Live!Casino Philadelphia are set to open in late 2020 and early 2021, respectively.

Said Cordish Gaming Group President Rob Norton:

“As a leader in the gaming industry, Cordish understands the importance of innovation and this site certainly illustrates our ability to enhance the traditional launch timeline of our new casino projects.”

Extensive Content

Developed in partnership with Game Account Network (GAN), PlayLive! has an extensive content of more than 100 gaming options, including classic slot games like Cleopatra, Crazy Money, Game King Video Poker, and Wheel of Fortune. It also carries popular titles like Gonzo’s Quest, Starburst, and Twin Spin.

Aside from online slots, PlayLive! Also offers interactive table games like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat. Players are also allowed to join Jackpot games like Divine Fortune, Mercy of the Gods, and Wheel of Fortune Hawaiian Getaway. The leaderboards show the players’ current rankings, creating an extra level of excitement for gamblers.

All games have been configured in such a way that players will get the same experience online as they do when they are at Live! Casino floors. In celebration of its launch, PlayLive! is offering welcome bonuses and free spins.

Live!Rewards Enrollment

The site was also launched so that Pennsylvania residents can enroll ahead of time in the Live! Rewards® customer loyalty program,. The rewards will be used by customers when the Keystone State’s Live! Hotels become operational but it can also be used in all Live! Casino and Hotel properties in the United States.

The rewards program is free to join with all players receiving the red Classic Live! Rewards® Card. All card members accumulate points to enjoy a variety of benefits and perks on PlayLive! and Live! Casino and Hotels.

About Live! Casino and Hotels

Live! Casino and Hotels are owned and operated by companies affiliated to the Cordish Companies. The flagship property is located in the Baltimore/Washington DC area and it is the top tourist destination in Maryland with a AAA Four Diamond rating.

The soon to open Live! Casino and Hotel in Philadelphia is located in the Stadium Entertainment District of the city. It will feature 2,200 slots and games plus more than 150 live action table games. On the other hand, the second Live! Casino and Hotel is located in Westmoreland near Pittsburgh has over 100,000 square feet of gaming space with 750 slots and 30 live action table games.