In Atlantic City, New Jersey, casinos can begin offering indoor dining and beverage service on their gaming floors. This announcement will end a 172-day streak of both services being shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Both services can resume at 6 a.m. on Friday after Governor Phil Murphy finally gave the go-ahead. Murphy has faced extreme pressure from other lawmakers in recent weeks, but he has not wavered until earlier this week.
All of the casinos’ restaurants must limit their capacity to just 25 percent, but that’s much better than not offering these services at all. All staff and guests will be required to wear masks except when they are eating.
Smoking will also be allowed on the casino floor, which has been another major issue of debate throughout the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes that smoking can lead to coronavirus contraction.
Until now, guests have been forced to eat outside of the casinos or in their hotel rooms. This mandate has kept many players away, as they do not like the inconvenience of eating outside of the casino.
This announcement should help the casinos have a huge Labor Day weekend, which is traditionally a vital industry date. Even though the initial announcement came just a few days before the restrictions are lifted, most casinos have been making food service preparations for weeks.
Tourism Numbers Should Rise
New Jersey has seen a noticeable decrease in revenue for both the casino and tourism industries, but the hope is that this announcement brings about a rise in numbers. Most of the high-rollers that visit casinos in Atlantic City enjoy the fine dining experience that comes with it.
The figures from last year reported that dining represented less than 20 percent of all casinos’ revenue, but it still brings several new customers. Many customers have stayed away from Atlantic City due to the prior restrictions, but the policy changes could enable some people to now make plans to visit.
Gross gaming revenue in the state of New Jersey totaled just $147.7 million in July, and this is a decrease from the numbers reported a year ago. It’s a 47 percent drop year-over-year, and the August numbers have yet to be totaled.
There are nine casinos in Atlantic City, and they combined to lose more than $110 million during the second quarter. Most casinos were closed for almost all of the second quarter, while others were extremely limited in their offerings.
Close Eye on COVID-19 Numbers
Even though Governor Murphy is finally allowing casinos to operate more of their business, he will continue to keep a close eye on the COVID-19 numbers. The state has done a tremendous job of stopping the virus’s spread, but other states have shown that things can change quickly.
Murphy has been very adamant about the fact that he will once again impose restrictions if residents of the state do not comply. Initially, casinos were allowed to feature indoor dining, but Murphy quickly backtracked when it became clear that guests were not following regulations.
When Murphy backtracked on his initial order, Borgata in Atlantic City decided to keep their doors closed. They finally offered gaming to their customers on July 26.
The governor is hoping that casinos can remain open for the remainder of 2020, but a lot will depend on how customers respond to the restrictions.