As one Pennsylvania casino poker room has been drawing attention for reaching a record U.S. jackpot level, another has quietly disclosed its permanent closure.
“We wanted to provide everyone with an update that the poker room will not reopen,” the casino reported on July 1.
While that might be bad news for those accustomed to patronizing the 17-table poker room in the past, the consolation is the casino announced it will hold drawings at the end of July to give away over $440,000 that’s been built up in its poker “bad beat” jackpot. The Bad Beat Jackpot Giveaway, the Facebook post said, will be open to those who “had rated poker play between August 4, 2019 and March 20, 2020.”
Hollywood one of three rooms that didn’t reopen
While most of the state’s casinos eventually reopened poker rooms that — like the casinos themselves — were closed temporarily starting in March 2020 due to COVID, those at Hollywood Penn National as well as Harrah’s Philadelphia and Presque Isle Downs & Casino did not return. In general, poker rooms are not considered big revenue generators for casinos that make the bulk of their income from slot machines.
Like a sportsbook, poker can be a low-margin amenity that adds to the overall casino atmosphere while bringing patrons who might also spend money in other ways — whether for food, drinks, or alternate forms of gaming. Poker is more labor intensive than other parts of the casino, however, and staffing shortages have presented new challenges to those operating the rooms. Unlike most states, Pennsylvania also has legal online poker options on multiple sites.
Jeff Morris, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming, declined to go into detail with Penn Bets about reasons for terminating poker at the casino near Harrisburg, which had been the only place to play live, legal poker in Pennsylvania between the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Penn National operates four properties in Pennsylvania, and Hollywood Casino at The Meadows south of Pittsburgh is the only one with live poker.
“We don’t have anything additional to share on the status of the poker room at this time,” Morris said by email when asked about plans for the prior poker space at Hollywood Penn National. “Meanwhile, we continue to improve the gaming floor by redesigning some of the layout to better accommodate all of our guests, adding new seating for slot patrons, replacing carpets, etc.”
Lots of money now to be given away
Before its shutdown, Hollywood Casino had built up its bad beat jackpot over many months, as is often the case in casino poker rooms. The potential winnings from such jackpots are an additional way to entice players to the room, with a big prize shared among those at a table when two players end up in a showdown with remarkably strong hands (the minimum criteria for the bad beat varies by casino). The prize pool builds daily from a share of the rake taken from each table’s poker hand.
At the Rivers Pittsburgh casino, the minimum qualifier of quad 10s for the losing hand has not hit since April 14, 2021, resulting in a potential prize award Tuesday of $1,119,206 – higher than any amount offered in U.S. casino history. A player with the “losing” hand qualifying for the biggest share of that jackpot would receive more than $447,000.
At the time of its closure more than two years ago, the total bad beat jackpot at Hollywood Penn National’s poker room stood above $440,000. That amount is now to be awarded in drawings taking place on July 29 and July 30, the casino’s Facebook post announced. While the money is to be given to players whose Penn National mychoice loyalty cards would reflect some history in the poker room, it won’t be awarded through success in any additional poker play.
The casino’s information says prize money will be raffled off between 5 and 10 p.m. July 29 and July 30 to past poker players who are present, with each player eligible to win up to three times each night. Each hour of rated play between August 2019 and March 2020 will entitle a participant to one entry in the drawings.
There will also be giveaways, open to others besides rated players, of $50,000 this Friday night and $100,000 on Aug. 6 of additional funds that had built up in the poker room’s reserve bad beat jackpot and player pool promotional fund.
For further information, contact the casino at 717-469-2211.