Planning Underway for Reopening Atlantic City Casinos

Casinos in the U.S., like every other aspect of the hospitality industry, has been hard hit by the lockdowns and social distancing measures reputed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As the numbers continue to show that the rate of new coronavirus cases is falling, gaming analysts and leaders of the casino industry are anticipating what the casinos will look like when they reopen. They’re also wondering when that process will start.

What the casino experts are saying

Las Vegas analyst John DeCree recently indicated that he expects large venues like casinos to be among the first businesses to reopen based on phase-one federal guidelines. DeCree’s report suggests casinos will have more space between the active slot machines, as well as fewer seats at table games and dealers will wear masks. Bars and nightclubs won’t reopen until phase 2 or 3.

New York-based analyst, Carlos Santarelli, says every gaming jurisdiction will have its own plan for reopening casinos. Atlantic City’s plan will look different than that of Las Vegas. Santarelli sees adding more gaming tables to counter balance fewer seats at each table. Furthermore, he sees fewer low-minimum-bet tables, as these will no longer be profitable. He also expects that scheduled entertainment will be nonexistent in the foreseeable future.

Matt Maddox, the CEO of Wynn Resorts, released a plan to reopen his casinos and hotels. Assuming that the governor will allow it, he calls for reopening parts of the local Nevada economy first. Then if the available data supports it, the Las Vegas Strip could reopen in mid- to late May.

Maddox knows that a spike in coronavirus cases could require pulling back his plan, but says that the only way to cross a river is one rock at a time and that we’ll need to get our feet wet before it’s too late.

Casino worker unions are already in talks with the casino companies concerning how they will ensure the safety of their employees. Maddox indicated that effort would include extensive monitoring and testing, as well as advanced sanitizing methods developed in conjunction with infectious disease experts.

Where New Jersey stands on reopening the casinos

The governor of New Jersey ordered the casinos closed on March 16 as part of its lockdown to slow the coronavirus. Atlantic City-based AtlantiCare, as well as the Casino Association of New Jersey, have come up with a joint plan to assist Governor Murphy and state regulators in developing a comprehensive reopening plan that prioritizes the safety of guests, employees and the community-at-large.

New Jersey has a big incentive to get the casinos open as soon as possible; the state is losing $700,000 every day in casino taxes and fees. When the peak season of June and July rolls around, that loss of tax revenue will grow to $1 million dollars per day.

As it’s been widely noted, Governor Phil Murphy had an easier time shutting down his state’s economy compared to the steps he must take to reopen it. Governor Murphy must weigh the diminished risk of COVID-19 against the growing economic damage to businesses, families, and individuals across the state’s economy. Action must surely be taken before a vaccine is available to guard against the novel coronavirus.

The governor should be concerned with the 33,000 unemployed casino workers and the companies that dominate the economy of Atlantic City. Hopefully, the politicians in Trenton share the same interest in returning to a healthy and normal life.

Hopefully, the average citizen and their elected officials can all work together to return life to normal, while maintaining a reasonable level of consideration for others for everyone in South Jersey has had during this crisis.

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