PA Gaming Board Shutting Down Casino Industry Due To Threat From Virus

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The Keystone State’s entire casino industry is being shut down at 6 a.m. Tuesday due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, by order of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

At the time the gaming board made its announcement Monday afternoon, six casinos were still operating: Hollywood Casino, Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Mohegan Sun Pocono, Presque Isle Downs & Casino, and Lady Luck Nemacolin.

They were allowed to continue until Tuesday morning before joining the six others that all announced their own closures over the course of the weekend, either under state or local government orders or by voluntary decisions.

No indication of when reopening will occur

Announcing the new mandatory shutdowns, the gaming board’s message stated: “The order to close follows the rapid expansion of reported COVID-19 cases and is aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus. While the closure is temporary, there is no specific indication of when reopening will occur.”

In a given week, the state’s 12 casinos take in some $65 million in gambling revenue and state and local governments derive about $27 million from that. The casinos will also be losing whatever food, beverage, and hotel revenues they might normally derive, as well as incurring unanticipated expenses related to their coronavirus preparations.

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The gaming board’s announcement came hours after the governors of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut announced they were ordering shutdowns of all casinos under their control. Other casino closure orders came in recent days from regulators in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere.

Two of the Pennsylvania casinos affected by the order, Hollywood in Dauphin County and the Meadows in Washington County, are owned by Penn National Gaming.

Jay Snowden, the company’s president and CEO, issued a statement saying that all nearly 2,100 PNG employees in Pennsylvania would receive wages and benefits through the end of March. Also, the casinos will be donating perishable food items to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Washington County Food Bank, and other local organizations.

Snowden noted that prior to the shutdown order, the casinos have been taking steps such as more stringent cleaning, heightened air circulation, postponement of live entertainment, and increased social distancing by reducing chairs at slot machines, table games, and poker tables.

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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