The Dream City’s Casino Status
Atlantic City, a resort city that was established in the 1800s, is popular for its casinos, Boardwalk, and wide beaches. The New Jersey city has around 9 casinos, the most in the state. After suffering substantial drops in revenue and massive unemployment due to the corona-induced lockdown, the city’s casino industry is finally seeing an upward trajectory.
Atlantic City’s casinos have been under shutdown for a little more than 2 months. And about 27,000 of the city’s casino workers are jobless. Those who have already exhausted their unemployment benefits queued up for nearly a mile to collect food packages distributed by their union’s volunteers recently. Even when casinos get the green signal, only half the employees are expected to be utilized for now.
Authorities Not Ready to Jump the Gun
On March 16, 2020, New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy ordered an indefinite shutdown of Atlantic City’s 9 gambling properties. Though the governor had recently given a nod of approval to start nonessential businesses, he still does not have a proper reopening date for the city’s casinos.
Gambling is a big player in the state’s economy and in the livelihood of nearly tens of thousands of people. Although casinos are big places where social distancing could be practiced much easier, challenges such as lack of ventilation, people being mostly sedentary, and visitors sitting in close proximity to others, pose a risk of virus spread.
The American Gaming Commission reported that the 2-month closing of the city’s gambling venues could result in a loss of approximately $1.1billion in lost regional economic activity. Senate President Steve Sweeny admitted that casinos are one of the toughest businesses to get back on track and that gaming operators are taking health and safety precautions seriously, in addition to working in conjunction with some Las Vegas casino owners to implement best practices.
Lots of money is being lost by the casino sector. And, it is not just the casino operators, but the numerous vendors and suppliers working across the state of New Jersey make their income based on Atlantic City casinos suffer huge financial losses as well.
Reservation and Reopening Plans
Some of Atlantic City’s casinos will allow for room reservations starting over the next few weeks but their gambling floors will remain closed. Hard Rock casino is accepting online room reservations starting from May 28, 2020, followed by Tropicana, Resorts, and Caesars on June 7, and the Ocean on June 15. Borgata is expected to take reservations only from July 1.
The gambling venues have already started disinfecting the properties from top to bottom and are preparing to welcome back their staff and guests at the appropriate time with health and safety at the top of their reopening norms. Some of the expected reopening changes include a limited number of slots, 6-feet social distancing in bars and clubs, and plexiglass in some places.
Expectations?—Just Go With the Flow
People may enter casinos with different expectations when the venues finally reopen at full swing. But given the current situation, customers will likely have a fair idea of what to expect and what not to. However, analysts have advised casino operators to tell their guests to tweak their expectations on what their casino experience will be like in today’s age of physical distancing, PPE, restricted pool areas, closed nightclubs, restaurants, and buffets.
Educating people on the new experience is important for casinos to return to normalcy. Gaming operators should provide customers with an outline of what they should do during their visit to casinos. Cleanliness and safety of both customers and employees are the priority for casino operators who are working with health experts to ensure the same.
New Jersey’s Casino Association along with AtlantiCare health system is developing a safe reopening strategy, which includes capacity restrictions, temperature screenings, enhanced cleaning regulations and sanitation policies, and social distancing, that will be unique to each casino.
A Different Near Future
The casino social experience will not be the same as before. Coming in groups, and eating, drinking, and playing together will be missed for a while. However, not everything is completely dark. From being totally alienated from the social world, it would be refreshing for people to get back to doing the things they like the most. The year 2020 may not see the casino industry return to the pre-pandemic era, but market experts do anticipate a more normal 2021.