By T. D. Thornton
Pennsylvania casinos have been greenlighted to reopen as of Monday, Jan. 4, rekindling revenue streams that fund Thoroughbred purses in the state.
Governor Tom Wolf announced Dec. 30 that because COVID-19 mitigation efforts have been working to tamp down the spread of the pandemic, he will allow more stringent safety restrictions that went into effect Dec. 12 to expire as planned.
But that doesn't mean a full-blown opening for the 13 casinos in the state: Mitigation efforts will roll back to what they were on Dec. 11, which still caps casinos at 50% of occupancy. Similar restrictions were also eased for other social activities, like indoor dining, gyms, theaters and high school sports.
Parx and Penn National are the only two Thoroughbred tracks operating in Pennsylvania at this time of year.
“I think that's really good news. We can go back to getting monies from the casinos, and that's very important to us,” said Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association President Sal DeBunda in a video message posted to the organization's website Dec.31.
DeBunda noted owners will still not be able to enter the winner's circle to pose with their horses, “so it's not a total open situation, but it's back to the old rules before the mitigation rules were put in.”
Earlier this week, Penn National had announced a contingency plan to stay open through the month of January based on maintaining a nightly handle benchmark of $1.4 million in the event that Wolf had decided to extend the casino shutdown.