Casinos around Philadelphia will begin reopening Friday following more than three months of closure because of the coronavirus pandemic, and almost every one in the region — including in Atlantic City — should be open by July 2.
Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack, and Valley Forge Casino Resort plan to reopen Friday, according to Douglas Harbach, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania’s highest grossing casino, , and Wind Creek Bethlehem are slated to reopen Monday, June 29.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that Atlantic City’s nine casinos can reopen on July 2 at 25% capacity, with everyone inside the building wearing masks. Indoor dining and racetracks can also resume on July 2 at reduced capacity.
The lone holdout in the rush to reopen is the Rivers Casino Philadelphia, which has not set a date to resume operations, a Rivers spokesman said Monday. Philadelphia city officials have opted for a delayed reopening, keeping some restrictions in place until July 3 or later.
“After over 100 days of closure, we are thrilled to welcome guests back to Harrah’s Philadelphia,” Chris Albrecht, the casino’s general manager, said in a statement. The casino, located in Chester, will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday for members of its loyalty program and at 11 a.m. for the general public. As with other Pennsylvania casinos, it will operate at 50% capacity with social-distancing rules making face masks required.
Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Atlantic City, said the casino was grateful for a reopening date before the Fourth of July weekend.
“We have been working hard over the last several months to prepare for reopening by implementing thorough cleaning processes, enhancing air quality and initiating a partnership with health officials,” Lupo said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming our guests and team members back to Hard Rock.”
Marie Jones, a gaming lawyer with the Atlantic City branch of Fox Rothschild, said she was surprised at the low capacity mandated for the New Jersey reopening, and predicted that customers would return.
“You may see some changes in how people gamble and play, whether they’re just there for a short amount of time,” she said. “But after being on lock down since March, I have the distinct feeling they’re going to be at that 25% capacity rather quickly.”
Casinos in Western Pennsylvania began reopening June 10, and were greeted by gamblers enthusiastically.
The shutdown of the state’s 12 operating casinos and three off-track betting parlors has devastated the industry and cut off a lucrative source of tax revenue for Pennsylvania. State regulated gaming generates more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue during a typical year, but that was reduced to a trickle from online gaming.
Atlantic City’s nine casinos have been closed since March 16, putting about 26,000 employees out of work. Thousands of casino workers have waited in car lines for boxes of donated food. The third food giveaway organized by the state’s Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and Unite Here Local 54 is scheduled for Tuesday at Bader Field, the city’s old municipal airfield.
Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, said Atlantic City’s casinos typically make 30% of their annual net revenue in the third quarter (July to September).
"So the next three months are crucial for them to regain some financial stability," she said.
Bokunewicz said New Jersey has been an example of a cautious reopening strategy and noted that Las Vegas recently amended its voluntary mask policy for table games to make it mandatory.
-Inquirer Staff Writer Rob Tornoe contributed to this article.