You’ve waited ... and waited some more. You’ve wondered silently if Atlantic City’s casinos would ever be able to come back in any form now that concepts like social distancing, face masks and a general unease over the concept of many humans gathering in a single space became the norm. But after months of hope and speculation, the time has finally come for casinos in Atlantic City to open their doors.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced last week that beginning Thursday, July 2, casinos will be permitted to operate at 25 percent occupancy. And while that obviously means we can’t expect to see the same crowds we would on a normal Fourth of July weekend, it’s the beginning of the slow and – hopefully — steady climb back to normalcy for America’s Playground.
Though all casinos have been given the green light to open their doors on Thursday, Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City and Harrah’s Resort will instead open Friday, July 3, while Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has chosen not to open at this time due to the restrictions on dining, smoking and alcohol put in place by Gov. Murphy.
Much like everything else in the new COVID-19 world, the casino openings come with a new reality and added safety precautions. Murphy has stated that guidelines will be announced, but as of press time nothing official has been released. But for those who want a head start, here’s what may be in store for anyone planning on “rolling the dice” so to speak.
Yes, you have to wear a mask. Deal with it. All guests and employees will be required to wear masks in public areas at all times. Masks at many casinos will be provided free of charge if you forget yours.
“If any visitor refuses to comply with these simple safeguards, you will be escorted out of the casino,” Murphy said. “We are not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who wish to enjoy themselves responsibly and those who need to get back to work, especially if those knuckleheads can be spreading COVID-19.”
Guests can also expect various forms of health-screening measures, including temperature checks upon entering the casinos. If you appear to be ill or are running a fever, you will not be permitted to enter. The number of guests permitted on elevators at one time will also be limited. Standalone hand washing and sanitizer stations will be found throughout the casinos. Increased sanitizing of all common and high-traffic areas will be the norm just about everywhere. Ocean Casino Resort has installed more than 4,000 new air filters, both in guestrooms and throughout the property, while Resorts Casino Hotel announced that it will be installing state-of-the-art Focused Multivector Ultraviolet (FMUV) light technology from PURPLESUN to provide the safest gaming and entertainment environment for its guests.
The casino floors
The days of sitting next to gaggles of strangers all hoping to land on Triple 7s are likely over for the time being. The casino floors will likely look quite different upon reopening, with floor guides for reminding guests of the need for physical distancing. Many table games will see reduced numbers of guests allowed, as well as polycarbonate barriers installed, while slot machines will be staggered, with every other machine being disabled on most or all casino floors. If you are gambling with someone you live with or if you want to utilize more than one machine at a time, you can request that other machines be turned on by a slot attendant. Some casinos will not feature poker under the current conditions. All gaming areas will see increased cleaning and disinfecting.
Although the casino floors and common areas are restricted to 25 percent capacity, casinos are allowed to open all of their rooms to guests. Some casinos are not opening all of their rooms because of dining and other restrictions. Steps will be taken to ensure cleaning and sanitizing of each room is handled properly, even better than before. Expect additional deep-cleaning protocols and guestroom attendants to be wearing masks and gloves, with new gloves being used to clean each room. At Ocean Casino Resort guests can expect to see stickers on each door that read “Ocean Clean” — a sort of freshness seal that will greet them as they arrive at their guestroom.
Gov. Murphy made a late decision Monday to not allow indoor dining anywhere in the state, including casinos. So that means most dining locations the casinos will not reopen yet, but there will be some availability throughout each casino, particularly at outdoor venues. For those looking to take a break from the mask, this will be your chance, as guests are permitted to remove masks while eating and drinking. Expect to see less physical menus and more smart phone-based versions, which can be accessed via a QR code. To reduce large groups congregating in waiting areas, guests will be notified via text message when their table is ready. Outdoor dining tables will be spaced farther apart or skipped in order to promote social distancing. Restaurant capacity will be majorly reduced because of this.
Expect less when it comes to parking options. Valet parking is likely to be absent entirely at some properties. Some casinos will only offer self-parking and even close some of their surface lots.
Not much good news here yet. The initial opening of Atlantic City’s casinos will not include much in the way of big name artists. For now the concerts are on hold. But you may find some entertainment at casino lounges as well as outdoor spaces.