Good news for Atlantic City casinos and gambling patrons.
On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 183 which states that food and beverage operations in the state’s casinos may resume operations but at a 25% capacity. The order, which takes effect on Friday, September 4th at 6 am, is expected to boost casino operations during the coming Labor Day weekend.
The move came after New Jersey continues to improve its COVID-19 figures. The state has seen a total of 3,989 COVID-19 positive cases with 245 deaths and 2,697 recoveries as of last Tuesday. However, according to the Atlantic County Division of Public Health, there were no COVID-19 related deaths for a six-day period ending last Tuesday.
Said Gov. Murphy:
“Given the progress we continue to see statewide, and with the proper precautions and limitations in place, I am proud that we can take this step today to allow our restaurants to once again welcome patrons back for indoor dining services.”
A Big Relief
The news came as a big relief to the Atlantic City casino industry which as been reeling since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to shut down for four months beginning March this year. They were allowed to reopen last July but at a limited capacity and without food, drinks, and smoke.
Atlantic City casinos are coming off a three-month period where they suffered an aggregate loss of $112M with the Golden Nugget as the only gambling operator to have a positive result. The negative figure was an 85% decline from their performance for the same quarter in 2019.
Booze and Smoke Now Allowed
Under the Executive Order, casinos will be allowed to serve drinks to its customers on their gaming floors. However, booze must be ordered through a server and guests are prohibited from leaving their seats while consuming their beverages. E.O. 183 also permits gamblers to resume smoking on the gaming floors although casinos are given the option to maintain their smoking bans.
Casinos have been smoke-free since their reopening and while smokers find this decision as a relief, those who advocate smoke-free gambling will most certainly be disappointed, especially since many of them thought that the temporary ban would eventually become permanent.
The legislation also allows the operation of “indoor performance-based entertainment centers” but subject to the 25% capacity limit, a cap of 150 non-staff guests in any single venue, plus health and safety protocols. However, it remains to be seen if the casinos will open their entertainment venues since the income from limited operations may not compensate the cost to produce the shows.