Atlantic City casinos are still closed. Having shut down in mid-March, the Atlantic City gaming area is a ghost town. Operators have been forced to lay off employees and struggle to come up with funds to stay afloat. There was some hope that casinos would be back in operation by Memorial Day Weekend, but that just doesn’t seem possible. Properties are taking reservations as early as May 22nd but offering refundable options due to the fact that it is unclear as to when casinos can offer services once again.
New Jersey is currently ranked in the second position just behind New York State when it comes to the pandemic metrics in the United States. This includes deaths. Governor Murphy of New Jersey is taking a cautious approach to reopening and government guidelines specifically state that a decline in cases must be seen over a 14 day time frame before states can start to reopen.
Despite this federal guideline fact, states are opening up anyway, in some form or fashion. For casinos, it seems that the decision to reopen is being delayed, due to high touch points, crowd control and several other factors.
When asked last week about the casinos, Governor Murphy stated that there was no news on casinos. He said the government groups and worker representative are working to make decisions on when and how to get back to business.
Since the shelter in place order was made, Governor Murphy has mandated that people wear masks in public and stick to an 8 p.m. curfew each night. He knows that the restrictions are difficult but wants everyone to remain vigilant so that the steps to reopen can be made.
For casino operators of Atlantic City, the losses continue to grow. The properties are losing out on gambling revenues as well as hotel stays. Memorial Day weekend is a big time for the region, as hotel rates increase and rooms sell out due to travelers.
Take for example Caesars. The casino in Atlantic City usually has rooms that cost around $135 a night. They are losing out on that income on a daily basis. But on Memorial Day weekend, the rates can go as high as $350 or more per night. If the casinos were able to reopen at this time, they could recoup some money lost during the closure.
Fast forward to the 4th of July and rates go even higher. If the casinos are still not operational by this time, they will have an even harder time with recovery. The prices go down as fall arrives due to less travel to the area. We may see that if casinos are open, the price points might be higher than usual to try and gain footing back after the closure.
While discussions are taking place regarding casinos reopening, employees have concerns. They are worried about health and safety as they get closer to going back to work. UNITE HERE, a casino employees union in the city, recently created guidelines that operators must follow in order to provide a safe work environment for employees. Non-invasive thermal screening is recommended to stop anyone with a 100.4 degree temperature or higher from gaining access to the facility. The union also wants to see a free test for the virus provided to employees as well as paid leave while results are pending.
For now, Atlantic City must remain shut down. We shall see in the coming weeks what details emerge and if any date is thrown around for possible reopening.