Atlantic City casinos reopening July 2, with masks mandatory

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says Atlantic City’s casinos will be able to reopen July 2 at 25% capacity and everyone inside the building wearing masks

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Atlantic City's casinos will be able to reopen July 2 at 25% capacity and everyone inside the building wearing masks, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday.

In a Twitter post, the Democratic governor also said indoor dining can resume on that date, with restaurants also operating at 25% capacity. And racetracks can resume operating July 2 as well.

Murphy said New Jersey casino patrons will have to abide by a requirement that is not being used at every casino that has reopened thus far: All guests and employees will have to wear face masks and undergo some level of health screening.

“If any visitor refuses to comply with these simple safeguards, you will be escorted out of the casino,” the governor said. “We are not going to tolerate any knuckleheads trying to ruin it for those who want to enjoy themselves responsibly and those who need to get back to work, especially if those knuckleheads could be spreading Covid.”

The city's nine casinos have been waiting for a reopening date for weeks, even as casinos in other states reopened.

“We're delighted to get the reopening date,” said Joe Lupo, president of the hard Rock casino. “We thank the governor that we'll be able to be open for the July 4th weekend to meet the demand on the world-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.”

The governor said additional safety and health guidelines will be released in the coming days for casinos and restaurants.

Many of the casinos have been planning on their own for a reopening, and have adopted measures including increased hand sanitizers and social distancing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

But some were planning more stringent measures than others. For example, Hard Rock was the first to say it would require masks to be worn by all employees and guests. Other casinos had planned to recommend mask use for guests, but now will have to require them.

Lupo said he is confident that what Hard Rock was planning on its own will meet — and probably exceed — whatever standards the state imposes.

“Our air filtration is better than most hospitals,” he said.

He also said the casino's player database will be able to assist health authorities with any contact tracing that may become necessary.

“With 85% of our customers being rated, we can provide details on when the played, for how long, which beverage servers were in the vicinity, which room they stayed in, where they ate,” he said.

Resorts Casinos plans to utilize air ionization, and ultraviolet light as part of its sterilization protocols, and every other slot machine will be disabled to keep guests separated.

Atlantic City's casinos have been shut since March 16, and revenue has plunged since then.

The casinos had been informally planning to be open in time for the July 4 weekend, a goal Murphy had said he wanted to meet several weeks ago. The holiday is one of the busiest times of the year for Atlantic City casinos.

“In the past two years Atlantic City’s casinos made 30% of their total net revenue for the year in the third quarter, so the next three months are crucial for them to regain some financial stability,” said Jane Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute for Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism at Stockton University.

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Follow Wayne Parry on Twitter at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.

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