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Memorial Day 2021 might be a big day for casinos in Pennsylvania. Operators within this jurisdiction were beset by the state’s orders issued on Memorial Day 2020.

The casinos were forced to shut down operations in a bid to contain the spread of the notorious coronavirus. However, according to statements made by Governor Wolf, the PA state government will be lifting all Covid-19 related restrictions apart from mask-wearing.

Governor Tom Wolf recently made a statement that PA casinos can resume 100% operations on Memorial Day. With the ban on restaurants and bars being lifted, the industry expects to witness a significant turnabout.

Review the map of Pennsylvania casinos found here. Then you could decide whether to promote the companies now that they’re back in business.

Philly Set to Review State Plan
After the Governor’s statement concerning the lift of Covid-19 bans in the state, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley didn’t confirm whether the City of Philadelphia would follow suit. But, according to him, the Commission will have to review the state plan before giving a green light.

These statements from Farley triggered a violent reaction from the City’s council members. The furious council members argued that they are counting on the Farley’s reopening the City because Live Casino Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Philadelphia are within the City’s boundaries. As such, they are bound by the Commission’s rules.

There Lacks Absolute Certainty
You will realize that the operative word in these statements is “can.” Following last year’s closure of casinos in Pennsylvania for a hundred days, the PA Gaming Board released Covid-19 protocols for reopening.

However, with Wolf allowing these casinos to resume 100% operation, it remains unclear what the operators will do in light of added safety and health measures the gaming board put in place.

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With many residents getting vaccinated and brick-and-mortar casinos resuming operation at 100% capacity, they have already begun hiring personnel. Valley Forge Casino was the first to hold a job fair. Other casinos in Pennsylvania have followed suit, with most posting job advertisements on social media.

Pennsylvania Casino Revenue Plunged in 2020
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, PA casinos witnessed a total of 1,500 closure days, about a third of the number of days they would have run normally cumulatively. With revenue from land-based casinos plummeting by about half, casino revenues in PA were bound to drop.

The State Gaming Control Board reported that fantasy sports operators and all the land-based casinos in the state generated a total of $2.65 billion last year, a significant (22%) drop from 2019’s year’s $3 billion collected from 12 casinos.

Land-Based Casinos Rebuild
At this point, it is worth noting that Pennsylvania is the second-largest gaming and gambling industry in the U.S after Nevada. The margin between these two states has grown wider since casinos in Nevada were legally allowed to offer full-scale iGaming services during the pandemic.

With the closure of brick-and-mortar wagering houses, gamblers turned to online casinos. These virtual casinos collected a gross iGaming revenue of slightly above half a billion dollars in 2020. However, since interactive iGaming platforms went live in mid-2019, there was no year-to-year comparison.

Wolf’s closure of brick-and-mortar casinos began in March last year, and gradual reopening commenced in June. By that time, the gaming revenue had dropped significantly. Table games and slots from developers like Relax Gaming generated a revenue of $1.86 billion last year. That was a 43% drop ($1.4 billion) from $3.26 billion gross gaming revenue recorded in 2019.

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In light of the current developments, PA land-based casinos are getting ready to get back into business at full capacity. Pennsylvania National Gaming, the oldest operator in PA, will be launching two more venues, one in Morgantown and the other in York, later this year. According to the casino’s Q1 2021 report, it is currently experiencing high demand across the nationwide portfolio.

PA Residents Expected to Keep their Masks On
Wolf made it clear that lifting the bans did not mean that residents can return to the streets without wearing masks. Despite being vaccinated already, residents are expected to wear their mask when walking into land-based casinos.

The Governor says that he will lift the mandatory mask wearing order after 70% of the adults in the state has been vaccinated. According to the state Department of Health, about 50.1% of the adults had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 jab by May 6. In addition, 32.2% of the adults are fully vaccinated by taking a single dose of Johnson & Johnson or two Pfizer or Moderna vaccines doses.

The state department of health continues to make progress in the fight against Covid-19. With the evolving CDC guidance and more residents getting vaccinated, the state is committed to seeing its reopening efforts come to fruition.

However, the health agency is still calling upon Pennsylvanians to take all the necessary steps required to eradicate Covid-19, which means masking, social distancing, sanitizing, frequent hand washing and receiving vaccines.

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Some Casinos are Enduring Better than Others
While not a single PA casino has managed to match pre-Covid revenue performance, the experience is different for each operator. In March, for instance, the statewide plunge in table and slots revenue from 2019 for casinos that had been in operation for at least two years was 21.5%, but Meadows went down 35.8%, Wind Creek 32,8%, and Mohegan Sun 13.9%.

McCraken and Frabbiele, two casinos on the opposite sides of Pennsylvania, both reported that part of their problems had to do with being in close proximity with other states that had adopted less restrictive measures. Meadows is also facing new competition from Live! Pittsburgh, a young but promising casino.

With the state allowing PA casinos to drop the 6-foot social distancing order and the resumption of full operation on May 31, operators within the state are filled with hope. According to state statistics, about 5,000 slot machines were not in operation as of March 2021 compared with March 2019.

The number of table game players had also been reduced from six to three. Casino executives suggest that cautious players be allowed to sit at a reserved table with three seats while others play on 6-player tables.
To surmise, PA casino operators need to be fully aware that the post-Covid world remains undefined.

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