Are Atlantic City Casinos Opening For Memorial Day A Pipe Dream?

Written By Bill Gelman on April 29, 2020

When will Atlantic City casinos reopen? Call it the multimillion-dollar question.

At this point, Memorial Day weekend is looking unrealistic. We are talking about the unofficial start to the Jersey Shore summer season.

The earliest date that guests can book rooms at the MGM-owned Borgata is June 1.

However, everything is subject to change.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has yet to set a date for when the coronavirus-related restrictions will be lifted.

Call it a long process.

Road to restarting Atlantic City

Atlantic City casinos closed on March 16.

So, based on the Borgata reservation date, the Garden State is looking at 11 weeks without land-based casino revenue.

The vacant hotel rooms, restaurants, entertainment venues and parking garages only add to the financial pain.

During the final two weeks of March alone, the nine AC casinos reported more than a 60% drop in casino floor revenue.

The financial damage from April and May will be much more significant.

Last year, Atlantic City casinos averaged more than $215 million in casino floor revenue for those two months. And, as a side note, that money is taxed at 8%.

Simply put, it’s one steep hill to recovery.

The state’s official Road Back Recovery plan to reopen the economy, not just the gambling floors, is a six-step process.

Take notice of how responsible economic restart is step five.

 What this may mean for AC?

There is no denying that Memorial Day weekend is a big deal for casinos.

Besides being a three-day holiday, if it’s a beach day, the crowds will flock to the Jersey Shore.

But will there be rooms available?

Golden Nugget and Tropicana are a couple of the other casino-resorts holding off until June.

The Caesars Entertainment properties along with Hard Rock Atlantic City, however, are still taking reservations for May 15 and beyond.

This is as of Wednesday afternoon.

Betting that AC will reopen in two weeks, however, seems unrealistic.

During the Monday press briefing, Murphy remained non-committal about what the Jersey Shore may look like Memorial Day weekend and beyond.

“I know what it normally is, and I love it and I hope it can be some form of that. Memorial Day is, what, five weeks, four weeks from today. Murphy continued, “I can’t give you a full answer.”

“I hope, as I’ve said many times, that we have some semblance of norm on the shore this summer, but it will be some semblance. I just don’t envision being in tight spaces without real restrictions on capacity and social distancing. Frankly, even on the beach, I just don’t see it.”

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Laying out AC casino floor plans

No matter what date Atlantic City casinos get the green light to welcome back customers, expect things to be much different.

Call it the new normal.

Exactly what this means is to be determined. An Associated Press article touched on some possible scenarios that could include:

  • Temperature scanning
  • Dealers and players wearing masks
  • Plexiglass barriers between players and dealers
  • Reduced active slot machines
  • Extensive cleaning

The Casino Association of New Jersey announced via a press release that it is developing a comprehensive plan. They are working closely with AtlantiCare to have something in place once the state-at-home order is lifted.

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, commented on “devising a safe reopening strategy.”

“At the Casino Association of New Jersey, our greatest priority is the health and safety of our employees, guests and fellow residents,” said Callender.

“We want Atlantic City to be ready to open as soon as the government determines it is appropriate to do so. That is why we are working with our regional health care provider to develop a comprehensive plan that ensures our properties are prepared and ready to reopen when the stay-at-home order is lifted.”

Atlantic City casinos: Memorial Day and beyond

Memorial Day is a month away (May 25). While AC casinos could likely reopen within days of receiving notice from the Department of Gaming Enforcement, taking a Memorial Day or bust approach would seem foolish.

As it is, the summer business will likely suffer a significant decrease this year.  This all depends on the severity of the restrictions.

Plus, there will be some customers unwilling to visit the casinos after they first open.

But instead of focusing on the negative impact, start thinking about how June, July, and August are fast approaching.

Atlantic City has a long-term plan in play that extends well beyond May.

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Bill Gelman

Bill Gelman is a veteran sports writer based just outside of Philadelphia and not too far from the Jersey Shore. Bill spends time in Atlantic City writing about casino openings and expansions, special events and now NJ sports betting and online gambling.

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