Masks Are Back for Philadelphia Casinos as COVID-19 Delta Variant Spreads

  • Philadelphia’s mayor has announced a new mask mandate beginning 12:01am on Thursday
  • The measure is in response to the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has seen cases increase
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia have confirmed the mask requirements
  • Despite some restrictions returning, the US casino industry saw record Q2 revenue of $11.8bn
Philadelphia skyline
This Thursday, casinos in the city of Philadelphia must reintroduce mask mandates at 12:01am, according to new measures introduced by the mayor in response to growing numbers of COVID-19 cases. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A dangerous new strain

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year, Philadelphia has set its own rules regarding restrictions on top of statewide measures. The city’s casinos have gradually removed all of these limits over the course of 2021, but cases of the virus are now on the rise once more.

more dangerous and more transmissable than earlier forms of the virus”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney spoke during a press briefing on Wednesday this week. He told reporters that the city is implementing new policies to stop the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which he described as “more dangerous and more transmissable than earlier forms of the virus.”

As a result of the growing community spread, patrons of Philadelphia’s casinos and other businesses must wear masks from 12:01am on Thursday this week. Only businesses which require proof of vaccination are exempt from the rules. Philadelphia’s two casinos, Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia, have confirmed that they will implement the new mandate.

“These measures will protect Philadelphia and save lives,” commented Mayor Jim Kenney this week. “We strongly urge everyone who has not received the vaccine to get it immediately. Please just get the vaccine. It could all be avoided if you did that.”

Casinos back to restrictions

Rivers Casino Philadelphia has struggled with restrictions throughout the pandemic. The Philadelphia casino closed for 169 days in total over the course of the crisis. Meanwhile, Live! Casino Philadelphia only opened in February 2021, avoiding any forced closures as a result. However, like Rivers Casino Philadelphia, it couldn’t offer alcohol on its gaming floor until April.

Both casinos released statements this week to confirm the return of restrictions. In addition to implementing the mask mandate at 12:01am on Thursday, the venues said they will ban smoking indoors until further notice. Live! Casino Philadelphia added that it intends to “closely monitor any updates” from local health authorities in the city.

Outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvanian gamblers can still play in casinos without wearing masks. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the ending of the statewide mask mandate on June 28, also allowing casinos to permit indoor smoking once more. Only Parx Casino still requires its patrons to smoke outside.

Approved by Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2008, the Clean Indoor Air Act bans indoor smoking in public across the state. However, casinos, private clubs, and cigar bars are exempt from the rule. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights group has campaigned to make the Pennsylvania smoking ban permanent. Cynthia Hallett, president and CEO of the non-profit organization, described the measure as “a silver lining of the pandemic.”

US gambling industry thrives

The pandemic has proven difficult for the US’s land-based casino industry, with closures, mask mandates, and capacity restrictions seeing profits dwindle. However, local governments have allowed casinos to return to normality in recent months. By the end of June, nearly all of the country’s commercial casinos were operating at full capacity.

Commercial gaming revenue is now at $24.8bn for 2021

As reported by the American Gaming Association earlier this week, commercial gaming revenue in the US set a new record in the second quarter of 2021. It reached $13.64bn, surpassing the previous all-time high of $11.1bn by around 22%. Not only that, but the sector is on track to beat its highest-grossing year in 2019. Commercial gaming revenue is now at $24.8bn for 2021, nearly greater than the total for 2020.

While sports betting and iGaming certainly helped these results, the nation’s land-based industry saw considerable growth. Casinos took in $11.8bn in revenue for Q2 2021, a rise of almost 10% from the previous record quarter in Q3 2019. Slot revenue saw the most substantial increase from 2019’s record total, up almost 17% to $8.7bn.