Rivers Casino Philadelphia, the only Pennsylvania casino that did not reopen after the three-month coronavirus lock down, is “hopeful” of reopening next week, a state regulator said Wednesday.
But smoking? That’s no longer permitted indoors at any casino.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia, along with the 11 other casinos in Pennsylvania, will limit customers to 50% of capacity, impose face mask and hygiene requirements, and limit the number of slot machines in operation and of players at table games, Kevin O’Toole, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, told board members on Wednesday. The reopening day was not known.
Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner, had announced that the casino could reopen July 3 if staff and patrons wore masks, social distancing measures were enforced, and no eating, drinking, or smoking were permitted.
Despite the measures, untamed COVID-19 continues to imperil an industry whose central attraction is social interaction. The American Gaming Association announced Wednesday that it is canceling its Global Gaming Expo in October, which draws about 30,000 attendees and exhibitors to Las Vegas.
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, the sister casino to the Philadelphia property formerly called SugarHouse, was among the first in the state to reopen last month, but it was forced to shut its doors again on July 2 after the Allegheny County Department of Health ordered bars, restaurants, and the casino to halt in response to a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in Pittsburgh.
O’Toole said the Pittsburgh casino was “temporarily closed for a one-week period.” A casino spokesman said the reopening date was not announced. More than half of the casino’s 1,700 employees who returned to work last month have been affected by the closure, he said. The Rivers casinos are owned by Rush Street Gaming.
Pennsylvania casinos, which shut down poker rooms and buffets when they reopened after the lock down, last week also implemented one of the more dramatic COVID-19 countermeasures: a temporary halt to all smoking indoors. New Jersey had enacted a similar ban as a condition to reopening Atlantic City casinos on July 2.
O’Toole said some casinos are offering an open-air area outside the casino for smokers, as long as they also practice social distancing.
The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 prohibits smoking in public places except for casinos, drinking establishments, cigar bars, and private clubs. The law requires at least half of the space in a casino be designated nonsmoking. The industry fought to allow smoking in casinos because of its strong association with gambling; previous efforts to ban smoking in casinos in other states led to a dramatic decline in wagering and tax revenue.