As part of his latest targeted mitigation effort, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday ordered the state’s casinos to close for at least three weeks since the state is experiencing surging COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
On Friday, Wind Creek Bethlehem issued a statement announcing it plans to continue to pay its 1,600 active employees throughout the shutdown.
The closure, which goes into effect 12:01 a.m. Saturday and lasts until 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 4, includes the casino, its restaurants and hotel, Lehigh Valley Live reports. The Wind Creek Event Center and Vision bar remain closed. The Outlets at Wind Creek Bethlehem will be open at a reduced maximum capacity of 50% in line with the new state requirements. Wind Creek remains open for gambling online.
The state’s casinos have been operating at 50% capacity since they reopened in June after the first state shutdown. River Casinos Philadelphia was shutdown by the city Nov. 20.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said Friday it is working with the state’s casinos to implement closing procedures to comply with Wolf’s order. Public health and safety of patrons and casino staff are of “paramount importance,” said Kevin O’Toole, gaming control board executive director.
“The board is continuously monitoring developments and will update licensees and the public as frequently as possible with any new developments,” O’Toole said in a news release.
There were 12,745 new Pennsylvania coronavirus cases reported Friday, the state’s second most in a single day, and another 225 deaths were reported, pushing the COVID-19 death toll to 12,234 Pennsylvanians. The Lehigh Valley had 563 new cases and 11 more coronavirus-related deaths, per the state’s Friday report.
To combat the rapidly rising case count and the resulting surge in hospitalizations and deaths, Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered a three-week ban on indoor dining, school sports, indoor gyms and entertainment venues starting at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and lasting through the holidays.
Wind Creek voluntarily shut down March 15 as the novel coronavirus began its spread, just before Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all 12 casinos statewide to shutter March 19.
Then, effective June 1, owner/operator Wind Creek Hospitality furloughed 2,100 employees -- 84% of its Bethlehem workers. Wind Creek Bethlehem reopened June 29 and in September resumed 24/7 gambling.
Later that month, the casino laid off about one in 5 of its workers, telling those who were still furloughed they would not be asked to return. Other jobs were also eliminated.
Casino revenue figures in September from the state showed Wind Creek’s August revenues of $33.37 million were $11.6 million below August 2019′s numbers, a drop of 25.8%. That’s 36% more than the next biggest loss, at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh. Before the pandemic, Wind Creek had a robust bussing program that drew many gamblers from surrounding states, especially New York City.
Wind Creek Hospitality, affiliated with the Alabama-based Poarch Band of Creek Indians, bought the Bethlehem property from Las Vegas Sands Corp. in June 2019 for $1.4 billion and celebrated its grand opening Oct. 10, 2019.
The casino originally opened in May 2009 as Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.