Less than a week after making Philadelphia the first U.S. city to reimpose a mask mandate, officials there are rescinding the policy that affected the city’s two casinos and other indoor public spaces.
Philadelphia’s Board of Health, citing decreased COVID-19 cases after a spike earlier in the month, voted Thursday to drop the new mask requirement that had only taken effect on Monday. The mandate had made the city an outlier among U.S. metropolitan areas, and the two casinos within the city limits — Rivers Philadelphia and Live! Philadelphia — were the only gaming venues in Pennsylvania where masks were required this week. But then decreasing hospitalizations and a leveling of case counts emerged.
“We’re in a situation that we really had not anticipated being in this soon, but it is good news,” city Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said of the quick turnabout, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Friday.
Since the COVID pandemic began in March 2020, Philadelphia’s casinos and other businesses have frequently been under stricter operating provisions than has been the case in the rest of Pennsylvania.
The city had a prior mask mandate in effect that ended March 2 before announcing April 11 it would be renewed on April 18. Also, from Jan. 3-Feb. 16, the casinos and other businesses had to require proof of vaccination by customers before they could be admitted.
Such requirements are believed to have impacted casino patronage and revenue, although just how much is hard to measure, as all of the state’s casinos have had trouble reaching pre-pandemic revenue levels for various reasons.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s recently released revenue report for March, when the two casinos were able to operate largely without restrictions, showed that Rivers Philadelphia’s gaming revenue of $22.8 million was 15.2% above a year ago, but 17.3% less than in March 2019. Live!, which only opened last year, made 4.5% more revenue last month than in March 2021.