Atlantic City Get Ready: Post-Covid Casino Gambling 2.0 is Weird

The post-COVID casino experience is unlike anything you could have imagined. The pit boss came to the craps table armed with industrial-strength disinfectant; he painstakingly spraying each row of chips with so much disinfectant that one of the gamblers at the table choked.

Standing at the Foxwoods Resort Casino craps table, just one day after the East Coast gambling mecca re-opened after its two-month COVID-19 shutdown was weird. In three directions players are surrounded by plastic barriers that resemble the “cone of silence” from the 1960s TV series, Get Smart.

With the mask over the post-COVID casino dealer’s face and all the barriers between gamblers, it was hard to tell what he was saying as he pushed the freshly disinfected dice across the table.

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A Strange Journey to a post-COVID Casino

The trip to Foxwoods was a revealing glimpse into what the people in Atlantic City can expect when Governor Phil Murphy finally allows the Jersey Shore casinos to reopen to visitors in a few weeks. The whole post-COVID casino scene seemed so ridiculous that one gambler rewrote the lyrics to the theme song from the old Foxwoods TV commercials.

Came for craps, caught COVID
Now my head has done exploded
Hack and wheeze
But I still had a baaaaall! 

Gladly, the massive casino is still in business, against all odds and thousands of Foxwood fans came to celebrate its grand re-opening. Eager gamblers were welcomed with blue circles on the floor reminding them to social distance, a sign telling them to wear a mask throughout their visit, and finally, a temperature-check station that turns away anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.

The temperature-check station reassuringly told most visitors, “Your temperature is normal.” However, that was about the only thing that was normal at Foxwoods.

Foxwoods’ post-COVID casino has closed every other slot machine and limited each blackjack table and roulette wheel to just three gamblers. They had hand sanitizer stations all over the place, with “clever” signs reading, “A clean hand is the best hand.” One has to wonder if all of the precautions will keep everyone from catching the coronavirus. The answer is certainly not.

Post-COVID Casino Gambling Has Been Sanitized

The fact is, people visit casinos for a little adult fun, not to be lectured about having “good clean fun.” Lady Luck will no longer bestow a win when she blows on your dice, she’s potentially spreading millions of airborne droplets infecting you with the dreaded virus. Luck be a malady, tonight.

All of the new safety precautions had an expected consequence, even on a Tuesday morning; while not exactly peak casino hours, open spots at the table games were nearly impossible to find.

“Everyone’s looking to unload a pocket full of cash. If we’re going to do it, let’s just DO IT!” Adam Camerlin from Boston exclaimed after he couldn’t find an open spot after walking around the casino floor a second time.

Just then, a masked cocktail waitress handed him an Old Fashioned, and Camerlin and his friends scoffed at the absurdity of trying to drink a cocktail while wearing the mandatory mask. Lifting the corner of the mask, he slid a straw underneath.

Camerlin finally played a hunch and parked himself at an empty craps table at 11:55 a.m. after being told it would open at noon. However, noon came and went, and finally at 12:15 p.m. it opened up. All this was due to the now mandatory post-COVID casino cleaning. Some were left wondering if a person could have elective surgery on such a clean table.

Even when the dice started rolling and gamblers were winning, it was impossible to ignore the bizarre circumstances. One player hit three points in a row, and the player next to him offered up a fist bump, but the plastic partitions made that impossible. It felt like inmates greeting their visitors in prison. Just then, the post-COVID casino dealer broke from the action to scrub the dice stick with sanitizer.

This was becoming a “hot table,” but no one could join the action, due to the 3-person restriction. In fact, a man wearing a Patriots mask had been waiting for a spot to open up for more than an hour. Anyone telling a friend to “meet me at Foxwoods” should expect to do a lot of waiting around.

Rafael Polanco, who drove all the way from Queens, observed as he waited for his chance at the table, “The point is to come to the casino to have fun. But you can’t get a spot at a table, you can’t have a drink at the bar, and you can’t eat at the restaurants.”

Polanco and many others weren’t worried about catching COVID-19. Polanco had already had the virus following a visit to Foxwoods in March. He says the antibodies will protect him and he is willing to test his luck.

Unfortunately, Polanco’s luck ran out at the craps table, his $200 lost with one unlucky seven. Other gamblers wanted to give him a pep talk, but the masks and plastic barriers quickly killed the friendly banter between players. Socializing at a post-COVID casino now seemed as pointless as thinking you can beat the house.

That’s when a few players decided to leave the table. What’s the fun of gambling at a casino if it feels as sanitized as the craps table?

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