The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over in the United States. For the gambling industry, the continued spread of the virus means that capacity limits remain in place as well as additional health safeguards. In Atlantic City, casinos must continue strict protocols for an additional 30 days as the virus remains an issue.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy recently extended the COVID-19 protocols for an additional 30 days. This is the 11th time that the governor has made an extension of the public health order. The goal of each order is to ensure that the virus slows down and is unable to spread in larger numbers.
For Atlantic City casinos, the nine venues must maintain operations as they are now. Each facility is limited to 25% capacity based on fire code limits. Employees do not count towards the percentage. Mask wearing must also continue throughout casino properties for employees and guests.
Social distancing plays a vital role in helping to slow the spread of the virus. At the table games of Atlantic City properties, the seating is reduced to create space among players. Banks of slot machines are arranged in a way to also provide space among players.
The governor would like to see the casinos remain open and feel these restrictions are the best way to protect the public and employees while remaining in operation. Hundreds of millions have been lost over the majority of 2020 after the pandemic first became an issue. Months of closure caused the huge loss and in 2021, executives and analysts are hoping that the New Year will make up for the lost time.
However, with the restrictions still in place, it is not likely that such earnings will be found at least within the first month or two. In reality, it could be years before the industry is back to normal completely, with full gaming floors and all services provided.
Help from iGaming
As the land-based casinos struggled, New Jersey was able to survive in a way due to the online gambling industry. Unlike most other states in the US, New Jersey provides online casino gaming, poker, and sports betting. As players were stuck inside their homes, the iGaming options became a common form of entertainment.
Since March, when the casino closures first began, the online earnings in the Garden State skyrocketed. Every month, a new record was hit as the online casino industry and poker reached new heights. It was amazing to watch and certainly helpful to land-based operators who were in trouble due to major revenue losses.
The loss of revenues would have been much larger if the online industry did not exist. The outcome for New Jersey has actually caused other states to move ahead with various online betting legislation or expansion plans to be prepared if something like the pandemic were to happen again. Many cities, as well as full states, rely on gambling revenues to maintain operating budgets. Without this income, the state and/or city cannot function.
We shall see in 30 days how New Jersey is affected by this recent expansion of the COVID-19 efforts. Will it hurt the casinos? Will the number of positive cases decrease or continue to grow?