Pennsylvania Governor Orders Three-Week Casino Shutdown Because of COVID-19

  • The mandatory shutdowns begin on Saturday, December 12 and will go through January 4
  • The last two days have had the state’s highest COVID-19 death counts of the entire pandemic
  • Casinos originally had to close from March 16 through June 2
  • Pennsylvania has many online gambling options while people stay home
Mount Airy Casino entrance sign
To slow the spread of COVID-19, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has ordered the state’s casinos to close from December 12 to January 4. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Casinos closed into 2021

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has signed an official Order to close the state’s casinos for three weeks, from 12:01am on December 12 to 8:00am on January 4, 2021. The Order applies to all indoor entertainment, as well as indoor dining, indoor gyms and fitness centers, in-person school extracurricular activities, and youth sports.

In his announcement Thursday afternoon, Governor Wolf laid out three goals for the strict mitigation measures. The first and most obvious is to stop the spread of COVID-19. The second is to ease the burden on Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health care workers. The third goal is related to the first: to get people through the holiday season safely and closer to the vaccine rollout.

It will help all of us get back to normal, and back to all of the things we’ve missed, faster.”

“It will help all of us get back to normal, and back to all of the things we’ve missed, faster,” said Wolf, who himself was just diagnosed with COVID-19. “And it means more Pennsylvanians will be alive to celebrate that brighter future.”

Situation is worse than in March

The first round of mandatory Pennsylvania casino closures lasted three and a half months, from March 16 to July 2. The Meadows Racetrack and Casino and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh were the first to reopen on June 9.

Because of a Philadelphia Department of Public Health directive, Rivers Casino Philadelphia and the South Philadelphia Race and Sportsbook had to close on November 20. The shutdown was supposed to lift on January 1, but it is now clearly extended at least a few more days.

On November 20, Governor Wolf said that there was no evidence of any outbreaks stemming from the state’s casinos. Nevertheless, things have gotten so bad in Pennsylvania that he and health officials felt that a strict, blanket shutdown was needed.

the virus continues to strain our health care systems”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said on Thursday that each of the last two days have seen more deaths than any day since the very beginning of the pandemic. She warned: “The virus continues to strain our health care systems and the dramatic rise in cases among all age groups, including among school-age children, is alarming.”

Internet gaming choices abound

Fortunately for gamblers in the Keystone State, there are plenty of online options for people to have fun with from the safety of home. Most of Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos have internet versions that offer games like blackjack, slots, and roulette. BetMGM became the most reason operator to launch an online casino, doing so last week.

There are also ten sportsbook apps in the state and one online poker room, PokerStars. On December 27, PokerStars will host the $200 buy-in “Pennsyl-MANIA” tournament, guaranteeing a prize pool of at least $500,000, the largest ever in the state.

Pennsylvania also recently became the second state with live dealer online games when Evolution opened its studio in late October. Evolution is supplying its games to Rush Street Interactive’s PlaySugarHouse and BetRivers online casinos and DraftKings. It later launched with Caesars in November.