Pennsylvania Governor Announces Easing of Casino Capacity Restrictions to 75% Starting April 4

  • Pennsylvania casinos will increase their capacity from 50% to 75% starting midnight on April 4 
  • Gov. Wolf pointed to declining hospitalizations and successful vaccine rollouts in his reasoning
  • The state’s casinos have struggled during the pandemic, losing ground to New Jersey
  • Keystone State online gambling saw year-over-year growth in 2020 for sports betting and iGaming
Liberty Bell
According to an announcement by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, the Keystone State’s casinos will ease capacity restrictions from 50% to 75% beginning April 4. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Relief for Pennsylvania casinos

Casinos in Pennsylvania are set to welcome more gamblers through their doors next month as the state continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s casinos closed for the second time on December 12 in an effort to curb rising virus cases. Since reopening in January, they have been subject to a 50% capacity limit. Governor Tom Wolf announced Monday that this limit will increase to 75% starting April 4. He also included restaurants, gyms, entertainment venues and malls among the businesses to ease restrictions.

Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part”

In a press statement, Gov. Wolf called it “time to get back to more normal operations,” pointing to declining hospitalizations and the succesful rollout of vaccines. “Pennsylvanians have stepped up and done their part to help curb the spread of COVID-19,” the governor commented.

A difficult year for casinos

Pennsylvania boasts one of the country’s largest land-based casino markets, generating $3.4bn in gross gaming revenue in 2019 alone. However, like most other casino markets, it has been beset by forced closures and capacity restrictions for the past year. Keystone State casinos remained shuttered for 33% of typically operational days in 2020. 

According to data from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, total gaming revenue fell more than one-fifth from 2019 levels last year. Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos, fantasy sports operators, and truck stops generated $2.65bn, representing a drop of 22% year-on-year.

Traditional casino revenue nearly halved from 2019, with slot machine revenue down 43% to $1.3bn and table games revenue down 44% to $500m. As a result, the state fell behind New Jersey in traditional casino revenue for the first time in eight years.

Despite its revenue surpassing neighboring Pennsylvania in 2020, the Garden State was far from immune to the impact of the pandemic. Table and slot games in Atlantic City’s nine casinos generated revenue of $1.5bn, down 44% year-on-year. In September, MGM Resorts laid off more than 2,000 employees from New Jersey’s largest casino as a result of losses.

Wolf has provided some hope for Pennsylvania’s market with the approaching easing of restrictions. The state’s casinos have also performed better since reopening in January. That month, casino revenue returned to pre-pandemic levels, generating $311m, a rise of 3% from January 2020.

Online on the rise

Although Pennsylvania’s casinos may have endured a difficult year, the state’s online sports bettting and iGaming markets saw significant growth.

sports betting revenue grew 136% year-on-year to $189.7m

Pennsylvania online sports betting first launched in May 2019. Now, there are 13 retail sportsbooks in the state and more than ten online sports betting operators. Last year, sports betting revenue grew 136% year-on-year to $189.7m. In December alone, sports betting revenue tripled, with online wagering accounting for 96% of the total.

Similarly, the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns saw the popularity of Pennsylvania’s online casino websites increase dramatically. Revenue skyrocketed 1,584% for the full-year 2020, to a total $565.8m.