After remaining in the dark for 108 days due to COVID-19 lockdown, Atlantic City casinos are once again welcoming eager gamblers, thanks to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s permission to reopen the facilities.
While some Atlantic City casinos reopened their doors to the general public yesterday (July 2nd), others are in the process of resuming operations. Among the gaming facilities that have already resumed operations following the lengthy lockdown are: Hard Rock Casino, Ocean Resorts, Golden Nugget and Tropicana Casino. While Hard Rock and Golden Nugget reopened their doors at 6 am on Thursday, Ocean Resorts and Tropicana reopened at 8 am on the same day.
Bally’s and Caesars welcomed only their highest loyalty members, with planned reopening for the general public on Friday, July 3rd. However, some gaming properties, including MGM Resorts’ Borgata, will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Borgata decided not to resume operations in response to Gov. Murphy’s extension on forbidding indoor dining.
However, reopening casinos amid continued increase in COVID-19 cases is definitely not without risk. Thus, the gaming venues have been instructed to undertake a string of measures to help mitigate the corona virus risk. The long list of measures includes limiting the casinos’ occupancy rate to 25 per cent, reduction in the number of playable slot machines and table games to promote proper social distancing. In addition, the gaming facilities have been instructed to install plexiglass dividers at select tables.
Before entering the venue, every team member and guest will have to undergo temperature screening; and sanitize hands before sitting down at a table game. Face masks have been made mandatory for all. Following the Democratic governor’s new order, indoor dining service will not resume, while smoking inside casinos remains forbidden.
However, unions of casino workers argued that there is no benefit reopening the facilities with so many restrictions. Bob McDevitt, the head of Unite Here Local 54, said he could not understand why the casinos would open at all.
Sharing a similar sentiment, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney said, “Who wants to go to a casino if you can’t get dinner or a drink? The ban on indoor dining is having a direct impact on the health of the tens of thousands of casino workers losing their healthcare.”
Murphy countered by saying that indoor environments where it’s not possible to wear masks remain the most dangerous in terms of COVID-19 transmissions.