Under an order released by Governor Tom Wolf this past Thursday, Pennsylvania’s 13 casinos have shut down once again.
Gambling venues, theatres, movie theatres, music venues, arcades, private clubs, bowling alleys, and other entertainment firms across the Keystone State have all ceased operations since Saturday, December 12. The shutdown is scheduled to end at 8 am on Monday, January 4, in three weeks.
The order from Gov. Wolf comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in Pennsylvania is on the rise and as part of the state’s attempt to curb the virus’ transmission.
Just after the governor announced the closure of all state casinos, nine gambling executives representing casinos across the Keystone State sent a letter to Gov. Wolf urging him to rethink the shutdown.
The letter particularly noted that Pennsylvania’s gambling industry is one of the largest and most successful industries in the Commonwealth because it produces tax revenue of more than £1.13 / $1.5 billion a year.
The letter went on to say that logistically, it is not realistic to shut down casinos within a few days time because casinos are large business operations that store many in-premise assets. Casinos are expected to secure thousands of individual gaming devices and move substantial amounts of cash assets off-premises. The executives’ letter further went on to explain to Gov. Wolf that tens of millions of dollars have been spent by casinos to install every safeguard imaginable to ensure that their facilities comply with all health officials’ safety protocols. The letter also pointed out that there is no proof that casinos are a cause of coronavirus transmission and that their closure would neglect their investments and adherence to strict health protocols.
Pennsylvania’s casinos were forced to close this past March when the first wave of Covid-19 struck. In June, gambling venues started to reopen gradually. Under Gov. Wolf’s three-phase reopening strategy, casinos and other businesses that were required to shut down in March were only able to restart operations after their host counties entered into the green phase.
Similarly, UK casinos have also been forced to shut down in Tier 3 areas. Though betting shops were allowed to reopen, brick and mortar casinos are yet to have any luck. The Betting and Gaming Council’s chief executive, Micheal Dugher expressed his disappointment that casinos will have to remain closed in Tier 3 areas. He expressed that it is extremely disappointing to hear that casinos are still being ordered to close in Tier 3 areas despite having the best anti-Covid measures in the hospitality industry. He further went to reiterate that ever since their reopening, casinos have been deemed safe by the DCMS and that there is no evidence that casino operations contribute to the R rate of the virus.
Dugher has vowed to keep fighting for the reopening of casinos saying that while the hospitality and gaming industry welcomes the decision to extend the curfew by an hour to 11 pm, the BGC will continue to make the case that casinos are uniquely exposed to any curfew and that the BGC will continue to press for their full and safe reopening in all parts of the UK.