Just in time for Independence Day
After more than 100 days on the sideline because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlantic City casinos have finally reopened. Harrah’s, Caesars, and Bally’s – all Caesars Entertainment properties – had a limited reopening only for invited guests on Thursday and are reopening to the general public on Friday. Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, Ocean Casino Resort, Tropicana, and Resorts all celebrated their grand reopenings on Thursday, July 2. Borgata is the lone holdout.
State regulators have required the casinos to implement strict health and safety measures, including only accepting guests up to 25% capacity. Unlike when Nevada opened its casinos a month ago, face masks are required for everybody inside a casino, customers, and employees alike. Other protocols are what one would expect at this point: plexiglass barriers installed at table games, limits on the number of gamblers per table, social distancing signage, and hand sanitizing stations.
It’s the first step back to our recovery”
Nearly 26,000 casino employees have been without work since the Atlantic City properties shut down on March 16. Unite Here Local 54 president Bob McDevitt estimates that at least 30% of his members will be back on the job this week.
“This is the first step toward salvaging what’s left of the summer. It’s the first step back to our recovery,” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr on Thursday.
No indoor dining
McDevitt, however, had expected about 60% of his union members to return to work. The estimate revision is entirely because of a surprise order from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday that disallowed the resumption of indoor dining. The order was not restricted to just formal dining, with the consumption of all food and beverage, plus smoking –now banned. Without those options, many fewer employees are needed.
While it is not exactly the same as a sit-down restaurant, casinos have made outdoor food and drink options available. Oceans, for example, set up a mobile bar, an especially welcome option since Atlantic City has temporarily lifted the ban on open containers on the Boardwalk. The Maddog Morgans food truck is also stationed outside of Oceans.
State has responded well to pandemic
Atlantic City was one of the final gambling hubs in the United States to reopen because New Jersey has been one of the hardest-hit states by COVID-19. For the first couple months of the pandemic, it ranked behind only neighboring New York in terms of confirmed cases and deaths.
But casinos are able to reopen now because New Jersey has also done one of the best jobs in the country at getting things under control. Aside from a slight uptick in the last few days, New Jersey’s seven-day average of new cases has gone steadily down for more than a month. Its new daily case numbers are now just a fraction of those of many other states.
lack of compliance with safety protocols will not be tolerated
Governor Murphy has warned state residents, casinos, and visitors that any lack of compliance with safety protocols will not be tolerated. “If any visitor refuses to comply with our simple safeguards, they’ll be escorted out,” he tweeted on Monday. “We’re not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who wish to enjoy themselves responsibly.”
Murphy added that he believes it will be a “matter of weeks” before he will allow indoor dining to resume.