New Jersey Governor Hopes Atlantic City Casinos Could Reopen by July 4

  • Governor Phil Murphy announced Stage 2 of New Jersey's reopening plan will begin June 15
  • Stage 2 includes outdoor dining and in-person retail, but not Atlantic City casinos
  • Governor is optimistically targeting July 4 for casinos, but “data determines dates”
Empty Atlantic City Boardwalk with Hard Rock sign in background
Though they are not included in the state’s Stage 2 reopening, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said on Sunday that he is hopeful Atlantic City casinos could open by July 4. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: Governor Phil Murphy announced on June 22 that New Jersey casinos can reopen at 25% capacity from July 2, in time for the Fourth of July weekend. This comes as part of a new executive order permitting indoor gatherings of up to 100 persons or 25% of a room’s capacity. Gov. Murphy added that casino visitors who do not comply with the facilities’ safety measures will be escorted off the premises.

Next reopening stage excludes casinos

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he hopes to allow Atlantic City casinos to reopen by July 4, but the decision appears to be at least a couple of weeks away. Murphy referenced the aspirational date on the AC Mike Show with Mike Lopez on WOND radio Sunday morning.

Casinos in the east coast gambling hub have been dark since March 16 in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. New Jersey is currently in Stage 1 of its reopening plan, called “The Road Back”. In a Monday press conference, Governor Murphy announced that because public health metrics have greatly improved and are trending in the right direction, the state can enter Stage 2 on June 15.

Outdoor dining and limited in-person retail can resume on June 15

Unfortunately for those who want to get back to gaming, he did not mention casinos. Outdoor dining and limited in-person retail can resume on June 15, provided there is no significant “backslide” in the COVID-19 data, while salons and barber shops can reopen on June 22. Gyms and health clubs, among other venues, will be able to reopen sometime after that.

Casinos would seem to fall into Stage 3, which includes “limited entertainment” and bars. All places that are permitted to reopen, regardless of the stage, must adhere to strict health and safety guidelines.

“Trying like heck” to get there

In his radio interview on Sunday, Governor Murphy said of a casino reopening date: “It’s probably still too early to give you a very specific answer, but there’s a lot of work going into that right now.”

He added that he and his team are “trying like heck to get toward” a target date of before or on the Fourth of July, where “subject to a lot of different parameters the casinos can be open again.”

Murphy explained that the state government has been talking with casino owners, operators, staff members, and worker representatives to try to figure everything out. As he said in his Monday press conference, “data determines dates.”

It’s indoors, no ventilation. You’re sedentary, you’re in close proximity”

“The bad news is casinos sort of have the attributes that are hardest to deal with this virus. It’s indoors, no ventilation. You’re sedentary, you’re in close proximity,” he said.

Murphy did say, though, that because casinos are “big footprints”, he thinks the health challenges are solvable, implying that despite the inherent disadvantages, the large spaces can lend themselves to social distancing.

Casinos reopening in other states

Though New Jersey’s casino future is still up in the air, several states have begun reopening their gambling facilities. Most notably, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced last week that the Silver State’s casinos can begin accepting guests on Thursday, June 4.

Most major gaming companies have announced which of their Las Vegas properties will be in the first phase of reopening. Included among many others are the Flamingo, Caesars Palace, Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand, Wynn, and the Venetian.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach has drawn kudos from the poker world

MGM has already reopened casinos in Mississippi, as has Eldorado in Louisiana. Several card rooms and casinos have also reopened in Florida, with Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood serving as a notable exception. The Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach has drawn kudos from the poker world for the safety measures it has taken in its poker room, including substituting the dealer puck with a bottle of hand sanitizer.