Atlantic City casinos cleared to reopen July 2 at 25% capacity


Atlantic City casinos have been cleared to reopen their doors on July 2, but they face strict limits on how many guests will be allowed inside.

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted that AC’s casinos would be allowed to reopen to the public on Thursday, July 2, ending a three-and-a-half month closure due to COVID-19. The reopening will allow the casinos to take advantage of the crucial July 4th holiday weekend, although this year’s celebration promises far more muted than in previous years.

For one thing, the casinos will only be allowed to accept 25% of their normal capacity. That’s half the level that Nevada casinos enjoyed when they reopened earlier this month. On the other hand, it’s greater than the 15% capacity that Detroit’s three commercial casinos will be permitted when their reopening is announced.

Gov. Murphy promised that further details of the rules casinos must follow to reopen will be released “within the next several days” but did say that both casino staff and customers will be subject to “health screenings” and will also be required to wear masks. Murphy added that any “knuckleheads” who refuse to wear a mask will be “escorted out of the casino.”

Nevada originally allowed guests to request masks but didn’t formally require their use. The state gambling regulator revised this rule last week to require mask use by table game players who weren’t separated from their dealer by a physical barrier. That change followed a significant spike in the state’s COVID-19 infection rates, which some have blamed on casino guests’ cavalier attitude toward social distancing.

July 2nd will also see New Jersey’s racetracks reopen, although their sportsbooks and lounges will also be subject to the 25% capacity limit. The state’s restaurants will similarly be allowed to resume indoor dining on a 25% basis.

Murphy said Monday that the state would be watching carefully to ensure there wasn’t a repeat of this weekend’s widely shared scenes of partiers on the Jersey shore ignoring social distancing orders and failing to wear masks. Murphy said it’s “one thing if it’s a little bit non-compliant but this stuff is out of bounds.”

New Jersey is behind only New York and California in terms of US states’ COVID-19 impact, and Monday’s official stats showed over 169k confirmed infections and nearly 12,900 deaths. The combination of COVID-19 and Atlantic City’s economic reliance on its casino sector has done serious damage to the city’s finances, even as the city ponders offering casino operators tax breaks to ensure they can keep as many staff as possible on their payrolls as long as possible.