Easing COVID-19 restrictions
New York State will be removing the 11pm curfew on April 5 for casinos and other facilities, such as fitness centers and movie theaters. Restaurants and bars will still have to adhere to the current curfew restrictions.
We are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the changes on Wednesday during a conference call, as the state looks to ease the current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. New York was among those hit hardest by the pandemic, and its numbers of cases and deaths are still not dropping as quickly as in most other states. However, the rollout of vaccines is in full swing, with Governor Cuomo saying: “We are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel.” Over 19 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated to date.
Commercial casino revenue in New York fell 60% year-on-year in 2020, largely due to these facilities remaining closed for almost six months because of the pandemic. Since reopening, they have been dealing with extensive restrictions, including operating at only 25% capacity and following strict health and safety protocols.
Casinos in other states also benefiting from changes
As vaccine programs ramp up across the United States, many states have also been announcing the rolling back of pandemic-related restrictions in recent weeks.
Casinos in Pennsylvania will be able to increase capacity from 50% to 75% starting midnight on April 4. Pennsylvania has one of the biggest land-based casino markets in the country. Its casinos had to close for a large portion of 2020, leading to a 22% year-on-year drop in total gaming revenue.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has also given the Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield casinos the green light to allow four players at blackjack tables, as well as being able to resume their craps games offering. The recent moves will help to boost employee numbers and provide extra choices for gamblers in the state.
casino and hospitality workers in Las Vegas now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination
In Nevada, casino capacity increased from 35% to 50% on March 15, with casino and hospitality workers in Las Vegas now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. The state government hopes to get the hospitality and gaming sectors back up and running as quickly as possible, and an efficient vaccination program will play a key role.
Atlantic City casinos will once again be operating at 50% capacity starting this Friday, as New Jersey pandemic restrictions ease.
Possible gambling expansion on the way in New York
Alongside the news of the curfew lift, other gambling-related matters have been a hot topic in the New York State legislature recently.
The Assembly and Senate both included legal mobile sports betting in their budget proposals this past weekend. While Governor Cuomo was against the idea of legalizing statewide mobile sports betting for some time, he has since come around to the idea. The significant state budget deficit appears to be the main reason for the U-turn.
Momentum is also building for the fast-tracking of three New York City casino licenses, as the April 1 state budget deadline rapidly approaches.
A state Senate budget bill calls for the New York Gaming Commission to open up the application process for downtown casino licenses by July 1 and make a decision on the successful applicants within 150 days. A downtown casino license would cost operators $500m. Major casino companies like Sands, Wynn Resorts, and Bally’s Corporation are reportedly interested in operating casinos in the area.