The Rivers Casino and Live! Casino in Philadelphia will be among the first poker rooms in the U.S. to institute full vaccine mandates. From January 17, 2021, proof of vaccination will be required to enter any business “where you can eat together indoors.”
This requirement will include all casinos where punters can consume food and drink on the gaming floor. This will therefore apply to the poker rooms at the Rivers and Live! as well as to any of the racinos and sportsbooks in the city that have table service.
This is not the first time vaccine mandates have had an impact on the poker world. The WSOP had a vaccine mandate. One that, despite some initial controversy, prevented a superspreader event and didn’t seem to hurt attendance.
The vaccine mandate at the WSOP allowed the event certain allowances under Nevada’s COVID restrictions at the time. However, the event could have run without the mandates with more onerous restrictions. Additionally, the mandate did not apply throughout the Rio (only in the areas being used for the WSOP).
Philadelphia’s new restrictions will apply throughout the whole property. Unless the casinos alter their food and drink policy to keep snacks out of the cardroom.
The food service loophole does mean that poker room vaccine mandates are not necessarily a done deal in Philly. But this does mark a marked step up in government involvement.
Storm in a tea party
Until now, poker rooms in the U.S. have largely been able to make their own decisions about vaccines. Some, like Harrah’s New Orleans have instated a mixed policy requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
A similar rule is in place in Philly until the new rules kick in on January 17, 2022. Until then, a negative COVID test will get you through the doors of these venues. Outside of Philidelphia, a test will continue to serve this purpose after the seventeenth. For now.
Many voices in the poker world view Philadelphia’s mandates as the start of a slippery slope towards greater, more permanent losses of freedom. For now, however, this policy will mark just a temporary inconvenience, affecting the recreational life of unvaccinated Pennsylvanian poker players. Some counter-voices consider that a small sacrifice during a global pandemic that is currently killing around 1,200 people per day in the U.S. alone.
Online poker is legal and regulated, offering at least one alternative to the unvaccinated within city limits. Players can also schlep out to PA poker rooms outside the city limits or cross the Delaware into New Jersey.