Philadelphia casinos can start operating at 75% capacity on May 21 if they meet certain ventilation standards and full capacity from June 11. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Getting back to normal
Casinos in Philadelphia will be able to operate at increased capacity starting May 21. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Tuesday afternoon that casinos can operate at 75% capacity if they can adhere to enhanced ventilation requirements.
Otherwise, they will have to continue to operate at 50% capacity. Social distancing will still be in place and masks will be necessary. However, patrons at gaming machines will be able to buy alcohol without having to also order food.
Casinos in other areas of the state can open at 100% capacity on May 31
This rollback of restrictions in Philadelphia is different from those in the rest of Pennsylvania. Casinos in other areas of the state can open at 100% capacity on May 31 after Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement on last week. They have been operating at 75% capacity since April 4.
Philadelphia has been setting its own rules regarding pandemic restrictions. The majority of COVID-19 restrictions in the City of Philadelphia will no longer be in place from June 11. The wearing of masks, however, will still be a requirement when indoors in public settings and in certain crowded situations. This more extensive rollback means that casinos will finally be back to full capacity.
A conservative approach to reopening
Key aspects of the reopening plan are the rollout of vaccines and decreasing virus cases. The city is still recommending that people do not go into crowded areas unless they have been fully vaccinated.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said that the city wants to take a bit more time before relaxing restrictions. This approach has been common during the pandemic, largely due to the city being densely populated.
This moment is possible because of the immense sacrifices that Philadelphians of all ages made”
Speaking about the rolling back of restrictions, Mayor Kenney said: “Today’s announcement has been long-awaited in our 14-month battle against COVID-19. This moment is possible because of the immense sacrifices that Philadelphians of all ages made over the last year.”
He still urged people to be cautious as hospitalizations and cases can rise significantly once again if people are not careful.
Green shoots appearing
It has been a tough time for land-based casinos across the country. They had to close for long stretches and have also been operating at reduced capacity for some time. Only a few regions now have casinos operating at 100% capacity. Philadelphia itself has two casinos in its city limits – the Rivers Casino Philadelphia and the Live! Casino & Hotel Philadelphia. The latter only opened for the first time in February 2021.
Because of the pandemic, all commercial casinos had to close in the state in March 2020. Casinos began opening up in June before closing again in the winter due to rising cases. Pennsylvania casinos reopened in January and restrictions have been in place ever since.
total revenue for the period actually equaled the all-time record of $11.13bn
The American Gaming Association (AGA) released commercial gaming revenue figures on Tuesday for the first quarter of 2021. They showed some signs of recovery for land-based casinos. Total revenue for the period actually equaled the all-time record of $11.13bn that was set in Q3 2019. The main reason for this in the most recent quarter was the significant increase in gross gaming revenue for sports betting and iGaming.
Gaming revenues in Pennsylvania reached record highs in March, bypassing the $400m mark for the first time. Total gaming revenues were $403m, a significant rise from the $154m in March 2020 when pandemic-forced closures began. It was also greater than the $316m figure from March 2019. Total gaming revenues for the first quarter of the year bypassed $1bn, setting a new record for the state. The maturing online casino and sports betting markets are contributing factors to this success.