Editor’s Note: This story is developing and will be updated.
Reopening Atlantic City casinos before the Fourth of July weekend is crucial.
Here is one good reason why: Last July alone, the nine gambling halls generated $277.1 million in land-based revenue.
Well, AC casinos are ready to get back to business. The official date is July 2 (Borgata is delaying its public reopening to July 6).
Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement Monday morning via Twitter.
BREAKING: On Thursday, July 2nd:
🎰Casinos may reopen – operating at 25% capacity
🍽️Indoor dining may resume – limited at first to 25% capacity
Additional health and safety guidance will be released within the next several days. pic.twitter.com/b4jY2fR3sp
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 22, 2020
Besides the limited capacity, guests and employees will be required to follow the safeguards.
Casinos will be permitted to open on July 2nd at 25% capacity.
If any visitor refuses to comply with our simple safeguards, they’ll be escorted out.
We’re not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who wish to enjoy themselves responsibly.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) June 22, 2020
Atlantic City’s biggest hurdle to reopening
The current crisis is not the first time the state forced AC to close up shop.
And it likely will not be the last. However, it’s by far the longest. Here are a few other times operations were halted:
- Fall 2012: Hurricane Sandy forced a five-day closure.
- July 2006: State budget crisis leads to the first mass shutdown since legalized gambling began. It lasted three days.
- 2014: Trump Plaza, Revel, Atlantic Club and Showboat all permanently closed their doors.
But dealing with a public health pandemic is a situation the casinos have never faced. It’s not just about reopening; there is the bigger issue of protecting employees and guests.
While Jersey Shore beaches reopened Memorial Day weekend, indoor facilities create a whole other set of issues.
AC casinos are a difficult call
Since issuing a mandate, the topic of casinos barely comes up in Murphy’s daily pressers. However, the governor recently explained at a press conference why “casinos are a tough nut.”
First, he addressed the concerns.
“It’s indoors. There’s no ventilation. It’s close proximity, and it’s largely sedentary. Those are bad data points, I think the team to my right would agree with,” Murphy said.
At the same time, he didn’t ignore the flip side.
“On the more positive side, they’re large, big footprint, and that’s a good thing. In fact, we had kept them open a little bit longer, you may recall, when we shut the state down … because of the scale,” said Murphy.
“The size of the actual footprint of these floors allows you to social distance in a way that a smaller space clearly wouldn’t.”
AC casinos + safety protocols
The doors to AC casinos may still be locked, but a lot of prep work is being done behind the scenes.
MGM, Borgata’s parent company, recently announced a seven-point safety plan.
Caesars Entertainment is taking a similar approach with its three New Jersey properties.
Also, Eldorado Resorts has reopened its casino floors in Louisiana. Call it a test run for when the company reopens Tropicana Atlantic City.
Besides casino floor capacity limitations, expect restaurants and live entertainment to be impacted as well. Who knows if the popular buffets around town will be a part in the reopening plans.
Numbers tell Atlantic City’s story
So, how badly does New Jersey need Atlantic City?
Well, for one, thousands of workers will return to work. In the process, it would reduce some of the strain on the state unemployment system.
More importantly, the gambling industry generates billions annually for the economy. During the first quarter alone, Atlantic City casinos saw gross operating profits tumble more than 65%.
Keep in mind, March was the only month impacted by the closures in Q1.
This means the second quarter is going to take a much more significant hit. Besides having two-plus months (possibly three) of no land-based income, the NJ sports betting industry remains extremely crippled.
Summer, on the other hand, is when the big-time business takes place. In terms of how much, this chart provides a revenue breakdown from last July.
|Casino||Casino Win||Gross Revenue Tax||Total Gaming Revenue|
Are AC casinos taking July 4th reservations?
The short answer is yes.
Since this pandemic started, AC casinos have been regularly updating their online hotel reservation systems.
For those seeking nongaming options, the Claridge and Showboat are open.
If the decision was left in the hands of MGM, Caesars or Eldorado, the back-in-business date would possibly be more set in stone.
For now, customers looking to spend Independence Day weekend in AC can book a hotel room. Cancellations are possible at no additional charge.
However, don’t expect the patriotic holiday to include any dazzling firework displays. While no official announcement has been made, the current social distancing guidelines would likely prevent them from happening.
Instead, guests will hopefully be celebrating the ability to play slot machines and table games. So, sit back and wait a little longer.
A decision is coming soon. It’s just a matter of if Atlantic City’s reopening will come before or after the Fourth of July.