New Jersey Casinos Will Reopen July 2 As U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surge

New Jersey casinos will open their doors on Thursday, as long as they follow certain guidelines. This past week, Gov. Phil Murphy laid out the requirements for companies to follow, saying COVID-19 cases were under control in the state, even as cases raging across parts of the country have prompted backtracking on reopening.

“We have been actively working up to this point for weeks and are confident that the health metrics we needed to see are in place,” he said in a statement to media. 

That doesn’t mean casinos can reopen at full capacity. It doesn’t even mean the operation follows Colorado’s lead to keep it at 50 percent. Instead, Murphy’s order calls for casinos to reopen at 25 percent capacity, with severe restrictions on restaurants and any other food vending. 

That includes an order that “tables where individuals or groups are seated are six feet apart in all directions.” Also, gamers will be required to wear face masks when they’re inside the casino restaurant, except when seated at a table. This comes with two exemptions. All children under two and anyone with a medical reason for not wearing a mask will still be allowed in without one. Once inside, you’ll only be allowed to place an order when seated and only wait staff can bring food or drinks to customers. 

The order also limits what you can carry in the casino. For example, gamers will only be allowed to eat or drink while at a table. It specifically says no one will be allowed to walk around the casino with drinks or food. 

New Jersey Casinos Take Extra Steps

Most of the casinos went beyond the governor’s requirements. The Hard Rock in Atlantic City requires everyone to wear masks, unless they’re eating. Everyone also gets temperature checks and the company set up plexiglass in most areas. When people play slots or table games, they’ll be told to keep one spot between groups. Then there’s the cleaning plan. After installing a new air circulation system, Hard Rock hired a “Safe + Sound” cleaning team. The 100-member cleaning squad handles all gaming surfaces, hotel rooms, pools and restaurants each day.  

For Harrah’s and Caesars’ in Atlantic City, things were a bit easier. Both companies rearranged their slot machines and reduced seating at table games. MGM’s Borgata went a couple steps further, creating an in-depth safety plan. The casino will test the plan in a trial run from July 2 to July 5. During that time, you can only get in through invitation. The company redesigned the air filters for better circulation, designed a self check-in system so visitors won’t have to wait in line and disabled all slot machines. Poker also won’t be available. 

Casinos Look For Some Relief

The news comes right before the busiest time of the year. According to the Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University, New Jersey casinos traditionally make 30 percent of their revenue from July through September. To ease the pain a bit, New Jersey casinos want help from the state. Specifically, they’re pushing for two bills to pass. The first, S2400, would temporarily reduce gaming taxes and fees paid to the state. As part of the deal, casinos would be allowed to deduct promotional credits from the gaming revenue tax liability. Then there’s A4031, which would allow New Jersey’s state treasurer to make interest-free loans to casinos.  

Atlantic City lawmakers already signed off on one change to a longtime law. For more than 30 years, the city banned any open containers of alcohol on the boardwalk. But with most of the attractions closed, Mayor Marty Small signed an executive order to lift that ban, in hopes of bringing people back.  

About the Author

Brian Carlton

Brian Carlton is an award-winning journalist who has covered casinos, the gaming and finance industries for more than a decade. His work has been published by the BBC and a variety of newspapers across the U.S.