The news everyone in and around Atlantic City has been hoping to hear for months has finally come. On Thursday, July 2–just in time for the big July 4th holiday weekend–the Atlantic City casinos can reopen!
Although initially, the casinos can only operate at 25 percent capacity, receiving the go-ahead to reopen is the big boost the economy desperately needs. Indoor dining, also at only 25 percent capacity, can resume the same day. However, in all likelihood, only select restaurants at the casino hotels will be open to welcome the first wave of customers during the weekend of July 2.
Racetracks can also reopen for in-person wagering starting July 2.
Gov. Murphy relayed the news of the July 2 Atlantic City casinos reopening personally on Twitter
For weeks, Gov. Murphy had felt pressure to pinpoint a date when the Atlantic City casino reopenings could occur. People have become increasingly impatient, not only in the face of the mounting toll on the economy that the prolonged closures were causing but also in the light of other casino reopenings across the country.
Accordingly, several weeks ago he expressed hope that the Atlantic City casinos could reopen in time for the July 4th holiday weekend. However, he did not commit to that date or any other date.
As I reported in my May 26 article on NJ Online Casino, “When Can Atlantic City Casinos Reopen: Two Opposing Views,” Murphy wanted to take every precaution necessary. Without downplaying the vital role the Atlantic City casinos play in our economy, he said that deciding when they could safely reopen was more complicated than for many other businesses.
Finally, on Monday morning, June 22, Murphy tweeted the exciting news. When making the long-awaited but not unexpected announcement, Murphy stated the following:
“We have stayed true to our two overarching principles that public health determines economic health and data dictates dates.”
However, he also stressed the need for the public to “stay vigilant.” Otherwise, New Jersey could experience spikes in new coronavirus cases mirroring those in that multiple other states that have recently relaxed their restrictions.
Maintaining social distancing is still as important as ever, Murphy warned.
Prior to the Atlantic City casinos reopening the first weekend of July, other important reopenings go into effect this week, including parks, golf courses, pools, and barbershops, and beauty and nail salons. We need to see if these businesses can resume operations smoothly. If they can, without creating a significant spike in cases, it will suggest that after the Atlantic City casinos reopen the following weekend, they can do likewise.
But at the same time, Murphy has voiced concern over viral videos showing people on NJ beaches and at parties not observing social distancing guidelines.
“Folks have let their hair down a bit too much,” Murphy said.
Accordingly, he warned that New Jersey would have no choice but to “put a brake” on reopenings if the state experiences a spike comparable to those impacting other states that have restarted their economies, but many people failed to practice social distancing.
Wearing a mask will be mandatory, also.
Murphy expects to release additional health and safety guidelines over the next few days. However, at the June 22 press conference, he already made two of the requirements clear, and they are not negotiable. All casino employees and guests must wear face masks and undergo some form of health screening.
“If any visitor refuses to comply with these simple safeguards, you will be escorted out of the casino,” the governor said. “We are not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who want to enjoy themselves responsibly and those who need to get back to work, especially if those knuckleheads could be spreading COVID.”
What about the casinos? Will they be ready to reopen, enforce the new requirements, and welcome back employees and guests given such short notice?
Due to the coronavirus, on March 16, Gov. Murphy ordered all nine Atlantic City casinos to close and to remain closed until further notice. What will wind up being a total of 109 days will go down in history as the longest casino shutdown since legal casino gambling first came on the scene in New Jersey in 1978.
Now the casinos must prepare to reopen in less than two weeks. This will include rehiring staff and training them on the mandatory new health and safety protocols.
However, according to a June 22 post on PressofAtlanticCity.com, “the time frame is in line with what casino industry executives have said they need to rehire and train employees, as well as ensure the properties can effectively operate under the new guidelines.”
Besides saying they’re ready, several casino properties have announced their own plans to ensure a safe reopening.
Even before Gov. Murphy had announced July 2 as the Atlantic City casinos reopening date, the casinos themselves have been preparing.
Hard Rock is confident that it is more than ready.
Hard Rock Atlantic City went on record saying it would require everyone on the premises, including patrons, to wear masks, even if the state merely recommended them for guests.
Interestingly, when many Las Vegas casinos reopened on June 4, guests were not required to wear masks, and many did not.
Subsequently, in the wake of a significant spike in new coronavirus cases, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a new order. Effective 12:01 a.m. on Fri., June 26, all travelers and residents in Nevada are required to wear masks when they are indoors in a public place. That means everyone inside any Nevada hotel-casino must wear a face covering, except when eating or drinking.
Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, feels confident that what Hard Rock has already planned on its own will meet, if not exceed, the state’s standards for health and safety. He described is air filtration as being better than that at most hospitals.
“We’ve been preparing and hopeful that we’d be open sometime prior to the summer,” Lupo said, “so it was really a matter of getting the date. With over a week’s notice, we should be fine.”
It’s all systems go at Ocean, Resorts, and the other six casinos, too.
Terry Glebocki, CEO at Ocean Casino Resort, indicated that Ocean will be 100% ready to reopen as well. She described Ocean’s air filtration system as “state of the art.” Glebocki also pointed out that “Ocean offers over 6 million square feet of space, 50-foot high casino ceilings, and spacious open areas, perfect for social distancing.”
Resorts is another Atlantic City casino going the extra mile to create a safe and healthy environment for both employees and guests when the facility reopens. It plans to utilize air ionization and ultraviolet light for sterilizing. It will also disable every other slot machine to help enforce social distancing.
Meanwhile, despite the short advance notice, politicians also have only positive things to say about the Atlantic City casinos reopening on July 2.
Assemblymen John Armato and Vince Mazzeo and AC Mayor Marty Small, Sr. wasted no time weighing in.
Assemblymen John Armato and Vince Mazzeo issued the following joint statement in response to Gov. Murphy’s announcement of the July 2 Atlantic City casino reopenings.
“This is beyond welcome news for Atlantic City and New Jersey as a whole. For months, casino workers have struggled under the weight of mounting bills and were betrayed by an unacceptably antiquated, over-burdened, and under-performing unemployment system. To hear that they can now go back to work under safe and measured conditions must be a huge relief for their families. We’re thrilled that moment has finally arrived, and just in time for Fourth of July weekend and the summer tourism season. We look forward to seeing Atlantic City safely welcome tourists to casinos and restaurants in the coming weeks.”
Mayor Marty Small, Sr., who like Gov. Murphy, had been eager for a July 4th weekend reopening date, was equally thrilled.
“It’s exciting news. This is the first step to getting our economy back open,” the mayor said. “Hopefully, we’ll see droves and droves of people here, in a safe way, on the Fourth of July weekend.”
But no one can be more excited than Hard Rock and Ocean– the two Atlantic City casinos celebrating their 2nd anniversary.
Lastly, the news of the July 2 Atlantic City casino reopenings must have been music to the ears for everyone associated with Hard Rock Casino and Ocean Casino Resort. As I reported in my June 18 article on NJ Gambling Websites, even before they knew that they would soon reopen, both properties already planned to celebrate their 2nd anniversary in a big way. Now they have even more reason to celebrate.
Hard Rock president Joe Lupo had this to say:
“We’re delighted to get the reopening date. We thank the governor that we’ll be able to be open for the July 4th weekend to meet the demand on the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.”
He also told PlayNJ.com the following:
“We are extremely grateful to Governor Murphy and his team for providing us with a reopening date prior to the Fourth of July weekend….”
“We look forward to welcoming our guests and team members back to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City with new “Safe + Sound” protocols, ensuring good clean fun.”
Terry Glebocki, CEO at Ocean Casino Resort, was equally ecstatic about the July 2 reopening. plans.
“We are thrilled to reopen our doors on July 2 and welcome back our guests,” Glebocki stated. “We have implemented enhanced cleaning initiatives to complement the exceptional level of service and rewards that our guests have come to expect.”
“Ocean has been thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom and we are excited to re-open.”