The Future of Atlantic City – There May Be Hope Yet

Barbara Nathan Updated on April 30, 2020
future of atlantic city

When Gov Murphy ordered all nine Atlantic City casinos to close along with many other businesses on March 16, it was anyone’s guess how long the mandatory shutdown would last.

The ensuing effect on the economy has been devastating. But halting the alarming spread of the pandemic became the top priority. It entailed putting the state on lockdown for as long as necessary.

But for the first time in weeks, the future of Atlantic City looks less bleak. The Division of Gaming Enforcement and casino industry leaders together with AtlantiCare have started looking ahead to the time when the casinos will reopen.

Their goal is to strategize viable plans to ensure that once these facilities become operational again, everyone’s health will be protected.

The Future of Atlantic City

Ideally, the casinos would be able to reopen in time for the big Memorial Day holiday weekend starting Fri., May 22. However, according to a 4/28 article on PressofAtlanticCity.com, Michael Buster, a finance professor at Stockton University, recommends an even earlier date–May 15.

Wynn Resorts, which operates casinos in Las Vegas and Massachusetts, also considered reopening on May 15 but changed the date to a week later.

However, whether either of these dates can work for Atlantic City casinos remains a big question mark.

On Mon., April 27, Murphy announced a six-point plan to reopen the state. But before Atlantic City casinos can reopen,  a sustained decrease in the number of new coronavirus cases and related hospitalizations must occur.

Even then, appropriate protection measures such as enforcing social distancing and wearing masks will probably be necessary.

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What changes can be expected when the Atlantic City casinos reopen?

We can’t say with certainty what all of the changes will be. But be prepared for a very different experience from anything you have encountered before.

Atlantic City has the benefit of being able to evaluate various policies implemented at casinos in Macau, which have already reopened, as well as plans in place at several Las Vegas casinos when they reopen. The following summary describes what could be new at the Atlantic City casinos.

Mandatory temperature taking at the door

The long lines to get into the Atlantic City casinos may seem reminiscent of opening day at Hard Rock and Ocean Casino Resort two years ago or, for older patrons, Resorts back in 1978.

But this time, the casinos may add social distancing markers. And the snake-like lines will have nothing to do with overcrowded conditions in the casinos. The sole purpose is to check your temperature.

Wynn Casino on the Las Vegas Strip will deny entrance to anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher. Expect the Atlantic City casinos to do likewise.

Mandatory wearing of masks

For the foreseeable future,  Atlantic City casinos will probably require everyone entering the premises–both patrons and employees–to wear a mask and keep it on.

COVID-19 protection kit

At Wynn Las Vegas, all guests checking in at the hotel will receive a free amenity bag including a pointer for touching elevator buttons, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a COVID-19 information card.

The Atlantic City casino hotels may do likewise.

Fewer operating slot machines and tables

In keeping with social distancing guidelines, couples or friends arriving at the casino together won’t be able to play at adjacent slot machines. In fact, 50 percent or more of the slot machines might not be operational.

Table games players will also find many tables closed. Those that remain open may have only three seats.

The proposed new policies come with a host of potential problems

Adopting practices like those mentioned above makes sense, at least in theory. But how well they can work on a day-to-day basis in the light of the following considerations remains to be seen.

  • Customers will be annoyed

Apart from the inconvenience of being stopped at the door for a temperature check, players looking for a particular slot machine or table game might find it closed. In addition, wearing a mask in a casino not only feels unnatural; it might hamper some players’ vision.

  • Most craps and poker players prefer full tables. Poker tournaments will be impossible.
  • Chips will continually be exchanged back and forth without an opportunity to sanitize them.
  • If everyone entering the casino is wearing a mask, keeping out excluded gamblers and criminals becomes a real challenge. Facial recognition technology won’t work.

Summary

Clearly, planning for a smooth and safe reopening of the Atlantic City casinos poses some big challenges. This article will hopefully give you a taste of what you can expect so you won’t be completely surprised. But this much you can count on. It won’t be like anything you have experienced before.

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