Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board publishes casino reopening protocols

Pennsylvania is the latest US state to announce plans for the reopening of its casinos.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has published new measures that are designed to allow casinos in the Keystone State to safely reopen after being forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The regulator’s guidelines outline the minimum requirements that must be met by casinos before they will be allowed to reopen.

PGCB executive director Kevin O’Toole said: “As conditions throughout the Commonwealth improve and the reopening of casinos is authorised, the PGCB desires to assure that re-openings occur in a manner which promote the safety of casino patrons and employees alike as well as assure an environment conducive to proper regulatory oversight.”

The PGCB’s measures

Earlier this week, the PGCB published a ten-page document outlining the minimum requirements that must be fulfilled before a casino can reopen.

To ensure casino staff and guests are safe, all staff and patrons must wear face masks when inside a casino property.  Casinos must also ensure that sanitizer stations are installed at each entrance for staff and guests. Floor markings must also be used to encourage social distancing while on casino property.

Casino employees will be required to enhance cleaning protocols throughout facilities and cleaning staff will be provided with the necessary equipment. All public and back-of-house areas must be cleaned frequently.

The regulatory body also insists that casinos implement social distancing measures for slot machine areas. These measures include the installation of plexiglass barriers between machines as well as removing chairs and disabling some machines to create more space.

When it comes to table games, casinos must ensure social distancing measures are in place so guests are not sat directly next to each other and crowds will not be permitted to gather around tables. Casinos must also develop protocols for cleaning chips, dice and other gaming devices.

Sportsbooks will be allowed to reopen but only if they can implement social distancing measures.

Poker rooms will not be allowed to reopen for the foreseeable future due to the amount of contact that takes place. Valet services at casinos will also be suspended.

Before opening, a casino must inform the PGCB about how they plan to meet the requirements outlined above. The regulator has yet to set a date for when casinos will be allowed to reopen.

O’Toole said: “While these guidelines for casino operations will be subject to amendment as we move closer to a time of reopening, we believe this plan will be effective in mitigating and reducing the risk of exposure to Covid-19 for all employees, patrons, and other guests.

“We fully anticipate that we will work with the industry as it seeks to become, once again, an economic engine for Pennsylvania and to restore the first-rate entertainment facilities each of our licensees have developed.”

The situation in other states

Commercial and tribal casino venues across the US are continuing to open after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the American Gaming Association (AGA), around 100 of the 989 casinos in the country have reopened.

Penn National Gaming (PNG), has already reopened five of its casinos in Louisiana after Governor John Bel Edwards lifted restrictions allowing casinos in the state to reopen.

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) also reopened venues in Mississippi yesterday (21 May). These venues included Harlow’s Casino Resort & Spa and Riverwalk Casino Hotel.

MGM Resorts International plans to reopen several Mississippi venues next week. The operator aims to reopen Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica on 25 May, with the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi to follow on 1 June. In the announcement, MGM said it will host an invitation-only weekend at each casino before they reopen to the public.

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