Three More PA Casinos Have Green Light To Reopen As Soon As Friday

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[This article has been updated since its original posting.]

Three more Pennsylvania casinos have the go-ahead to reopen as soon as Friday, although only one of them announced it will be ready to do so.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course posted an announcement on its website over the weekend stating, “We expect to reopen Friday, June 19th, pending final regulatory approval.”

Mohegan Sun Pocono, meanwhile, will take several more days before reopening to the public a week from now at 10 a.m. on June 22, the casino announced late Monday afternoon.

Mount Airy Casino Resort is the third venue newly permitted late this week to reopen for the first time since mid-March under a guideline from the Wolf administration. The governor late Friday added the three casinos’ counties to the “green” phase covering COVID-19 business operations in Pennsylvania, which means they can open under certain restrictions.

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Mount Airy’s website and media representative provided no updated information Monday, however, about reopening plans.

Three reopened last week

Week by week, Pennsylvania’s gaming industry is resuming activity after three months of no live gambling or revenue.

Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino and the Meadows Racetrack & Casino reopened last Tuesday after receiving state approval to do so, as the southwestern part of the state has been less affected by COVID-19 spread than eastern Pennsylvania. Lady Luck Nemacolin in Fayette County followed with a reopening Friday.

Each of those casinos waited several days after the first possible day they were permitted to reopen before actually doing so.

Six casinos, meanwhile, remain in “yellow” counties, in which large entertainment centers must remain closed. There is no timetable yet for patrons to return to Parx Casino, Rivers Philadelphia, Harrah’s Philadelphia, Valley Forge Casino Resort, Wind Creek Bethlehem, or Presque Isle Downs & Casino.

The reopened casinos are operating under reduced gaming capacity, staffing, dining options, and hours. New limits exist on the number of players at table games, poker rooms are shut down, and slots players and other guests are supposed to maintain six feet of social distance from one another.

All employees and guests must wear masks, and the casinos are to have extensive new cleaning protocols, with widespread availability to the public of sanitary disinfectant dispensers and wipes.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board has set minimum health and safety standards for precautions operators must take before reopening, but they are also to obtain approval of individualized plans they submit for their properties.

Penn National prepping for Hollywood Casino

Penn National Gaming has already reopened some of its properties around the country, including the Meadows in Washington County, and its website posted information at mid-day Monday stating it would greet customers at Hollywood Casino again at 9 a.m. Friday.

The facility will be closed, however, from 3 to 7 a.m. daily “for deep cleaning,” and many aspects of operations, such as several restaurants and Top Golf, will remain shut down.

“While the amenities our customers have come to know and love may be somewhat limited for the time being, the ability to safely welcome back our team members and guests remains our top priority,” states a message on the website from General Manager Dan Ihm.

At the Meadows, the casino also has reduced hours for the time being, with no guests inside from 3 to 8 a.m. daily during cleaning. Many of the slot machines are disabled, generally preventing people from playing side by side.

The Mohegan Sun announcement made no mention of reduced operating hours, but it noted its 238-room hotel will remain closed an additional week, until June 28. The facility’s pools and gyms will also stay closed initially.

Anthony Carlucci, general manager of Mohegan Sun Pocono, said it will be using protocols modeled after Mohegan Sun’s much larger, flagship property in Connecticut, which has already reopened.  Among those will be the use at entrances of non-invasive thermal cameras to check temperatures of guests and employees, with anyone registering 100.2 or higher rechecked and barred from entering if their temperature is still too high.

Racing back on track at five venues

At the same time that sporadic announcements come out about casinos getting back in business, five of Pennsylvania’s six racetracks connected to casinos now have start dates. They have been working out their plans since getting the go-ahead late last Wednesday from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and state Horse Racing Commission.

The Meadows was the first to get back in business, with live harness racing it said would resume this afternoon, although with a smaller card — 10 races instead of 13.

Penn National is to resume thoroughbred racing Friday at Hollywood Casino.

Mohegan Sun Pocono Downs will be back in action Saturday.

The harness track at Harrah’s Philadelphia will resume racing Sunday.

Parx Casino’s thoroughbred racing is set for a restart Monday, June 22.

Presque Isle Downs is the only track with no scheduled date yet.

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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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