Pennsylvania casinos investing millions in renovations to reach pre-pandemic levels, attract new gamblers

As Pennsylvania’s gambling market continues to grow, so do investments from the industry. Since the onset of the pandemic, casinos across the commonwealth have spent about $250 million on renovations to attract more visitors. These renovations have primarily been in new construction and amenities, with an eye toward attracting younger gamblers.

A report by Play Pennsylvania stated that pandemic closures and their subsequent impact, in addition to increased competition and high inflation, “have pushed PA casinos to reinvent themselves in an attempt to return revenue to pre-pandemic levels.”

Slots and table games have reached or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but other areas still lag. While Wind Creek Casino, Parx Casino, Mohegan Pennsylvania and Valley Forge Casino have recovered their pre-Covid revenues, others like Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Hollywood Casino at The Meadows, Harrah’s Philadelphia, and Rivers Philadelphia still have yet to rebound, the report noted.

COVID-19 restrictions hurt Philadelphia casinos more than others in the state, and “skill games” have pulled away revenue from casinos as well. Penn Entertainment CEO Jay Snowden has made public calls to ban these sorts of games, claiming, “this is an existential issue for the industry.”

Casinos are now specifically targeting younger crowds to increase revenue. The cited source argues that, in addition to retail sportsbooks, a number of new bars, restaurants and concert venues that casinos have invested in lately are also geared toward bringing in a new, younger clientele. 

The casino investments have been two-fold: expansion to draw in bigger crowds and pull customers from competing casinos. Apart from Nevada, Pennsylvania boasts the highest commercial casino revenue of any state, and it is still growing. Through November 2022, Pennsylvania commercial casino revenue was up 10.1% compared with the same period in 2021.

Renovation projects are slated to continue as casinos aim to remain competitive. And for the state, tax revenues from these expanded offerings have been a boost for the budget. Experts have previously predicted annual revenues could reach $5 billion, but those tend to shrink in times of inflation or economic downturns, as discretionary spending falls.

But in addition to investing in expanding existing properties, Pennsylvania’s industry is also betting on new casinos. Earlier this week, Parx Casino confirmed its new casino, the first in Cumberland County, will open its doors next month. The new location in Shippensburg will become Pennsylvania’s fourth Category 4 casino on February 3.

The Commonwealth’s three other Category 4 casinos are in York County, Westmoreland County and Lawrence County. Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment will operate the 73,000-square-foot Parx Casino location, which is replacing a former Lowes right off I-81.

The Parx Casino will officially open its doors on Friday, February 3. According to the property’s website, the casino will feature 500 slot machines, 48 electronic table game positions, restaurants, and bars.