Seaside Heights before and after the opening of the beaches on the Jersey Shore during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Sunday he hopes Atlantic City casinos can be reopened around July 4, but stressed that strict social distancing and occupancy limits will have to be enforced to make sure COVID-19 is not easily spread.
Murphy told WOND radio in South Jersey that his administration is “trying like heck” to get the casinos opened earlier but said the task is enormously complicated to ensure the safety of gamblers and workers.
“It’s probably still too early to give you a specific answer,” Murphy said of an exact date but stressed it would likely be around Independence Day.
Since closing on March 16 per Murphy’s order, casinos have lost hundreds of millions in revenues and laid off thousands of workers.
The state has lost $18 million in direct taxes on gambling in March and April alone, according to state gambling data. Revenue numbers for May are not yet available.
And while internet gaming and online sports wagering have continued, most sporting events have been canceled.
Gaming revenue for April was $82.6 million, a decrease of almost 69% from $265 million in April 2019, according to state data.
Although casinos were open for half the month, revenue for March plummeted to $163 million compared to $294 million in 2019 – a 44% decrease.
Murphy said Sunday he is working with casino owners and local officials on a reopening plan but didn’t offer what a casino floor would look like during a pandemic. Like indoor-seating at restaurants, Murphy said casinos present a unique problem because of stagnant air and close contact among patrons and staff.
MGM Resorts, which owns the Borgata, has put together a plan for reopening its hotels and casinos. They include some changes:
- Employees will be given temperature checks before starting their shifts. Guests are asked to do the same themselves.
- Employees will have to wear masks. Guests will be required to do so when appropriate social distancing or barriers cannot be maintained. Drinks will still be served on the casino floor. Food will not be.
- Plexiglass barriers will be installed in areas throughout casinos and lobbies.
Regardless of what MGM plans, the company will have to adhere to whatever orders Murphy establishes for casinos.
Scott Fallon covers the environment for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news about how New Jersey’s environment affects your health and well-being, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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