Live Poker Ready to Resume in Atlantic City, Borgata First to Deal

  • Live poker games at the Borgata to restart at 10am on October 21 with restrictions in place
  • Only 30 of the usual 77 tables will be operational, with clear barriers between players
  • Borgata's casino win in September was down 31% year-on-year, overall gaming revenue fell 2.8%
  • New Jersey broke the national monthly betting handle record last month with $748m in bets
Borgata casino interior in Atlantic City
Live poker will resume in Atlantic City on October 21, when the Borgata is set to reopen its poker room at 10am. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long-awaited comeback

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City announced on Thursday that it will be resuming its live poker games at 10am on October 21. The news makes it the first casino in Atlantic City to resume live poker activity since the pandemic-enforced closures back in March. 

The Borgata tweeted out details of the reopening plan, saying it is “ready to deal”:

New measures in place at ‘The Poker Room’ will protect the health and safety of all players and staff. The facility will only have 30 tables operational, down from the 77 tables that make it the biggest poker room in Atlantic City.

only cash games will take place at seven-handed tables

All players will be separated from one another through the installation of polycarbonate dividers. Only cash games will take place at seven-handed tables, with no tournaments permitted for the moment. 

The changing landscape

Other health and safety measures at the Borgata include hand-sanitizer dispensers located around the poker room, plus frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch points.

Anyone who enters the public areas of the casino, including the poker room, will have to wear a mask. No spectators will be allowed. While beverage service will be available, there will be no food consumption on-site.

The Borgata’s chief operating officer and president, Melonie Johnson, expressed her excitement about the resumption of live poker play at the property. She said: “We are happy to welcome back our loyal players as we reopen Atlantic City’s market-leading East Coast poker destination.”

None of the five other poker rooms in Atlantic City casinos are currently open.

In 2019, Atlantic City casinos housing poker rooms generated total revenue of about $27.2m. The Borgata was the leading operator, posting poker revenue of almost $18m last year.

Getting back to business

Casinos in Atlantic City are trying to get back to pre-COVID-19 performance levels despite ongoing challenges. Most of the casinos resumed activity on July 2 after getting the green light from New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. The poker rooms remained closed.

However, the MGM Resorts International-owned Borgata waited until July 26 to reopen to the general public. The financial conditions in the wake of the pandemic forced the hotel-casino to lay off 2,295 people, representing about 42.5% of the facility’s total workforce. 

internet gaming win and sports betting revenue helped offset a lot of the damage

The Borgata’s casino win in September 2020 was $39.7m, a year-on-year drop of almost 31%. However, its internet gaming win and sports betting revenue helped offset a lot of the damage, ultimately posting total gaming revenue for the month of just over $64m – a decrease of 2.8% from September 2019. 

Other casinos had a strong month, posting year-on-year revenue increase despite operating at 25% capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions. For the overall gambling sector in New Jersey, revenue in September was $323.3m – a 6.5% year-on-year increase.  

New Jersey Casino Control Commission chairman James Plousis was optimistic about the signs of recovery. He said: “Casino win was 85 percent of last September’s performance, aided by the reopening of casino restaurants on September 4, and the resumption of food and beverage service on casino floors.”

Sports betting posts solid results

While the land-based casino operations in Atlantic City have been struggling amid pandemic closures and ongoing restrictions, sports betting business remains strong.

The state’s sportsbooks hit another national monthly record high in September. Bettors placed more than $748m worth of bets in the Garden State the same month that the new NFL season began. From all of these bets, sportsbooks generated revenue of about $45.1m.

Sports betting companies smashed the previous record set in August, when they took in $668m worth of bets. The latest figures from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement bring total sports betting handle this year to date up to almost $3.3bn.