New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) announced Monday that the state will allow NJ casinos, NJ sportsbooks, and horse race tracks to re-open… but at 25 percent capacity on July 2nd, and that’s not all.
Garden State gaming facilities have been shuttered since mid-March, following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The go-ahead to re-open comes as part of Stage 2 in the state’s recovery process.
Update: 6/23 at 2:28 PM EST
Monmouth Park will welcome back players for simulcast wagering and re-open the William Hill sportsbook on July 2nd, one day before live racing begins in Central Jersey.
The track will celebrate its 75th season of racing with three days a week of events, including the marquee Haskell race, slated for Saturday, July 18th.
“We’re grateful for Gov. Murphy’s leadership throughout this pandemic and look forward to getting back to some semblance of business as usual in these new times of a new normal,” Dennis Drazin, CEO of track operator Darby Development LLC, said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “We know our fans are as eager to return to Monmouth as we are to have them back.”
The park’s announcement comes hours after a big name in AC says they’ll wait until after the holiday weekend to reopen to the public. Borgata Casino will reopen on July 6th, according to a statement released Tuesday morning.
A “hosted, invitation-only event” will occur before welcoming back the public.
The company will work off health guidelines established in May by parent company MGM. Some of the changes include screening employees and guests on entry, social distancing guidelines, including some physical barriers where needed, and digital menus for eateries.
The casino also plans to limit “amenity offerings” at first, with plans to restart some as restrictions are loosened.
“We are proud to be part of this resilient community that has remained strong and caring during these challenging months. When we reopen our doors, we do so with excitement to welcome back our employees and guests, and with an unwavering commitment to their health and safety,” said Melonie Johnson, President of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. “Summer is a special time in Atlantic City, and we look forward to playing a part in offering some much-needed entertainment.”
Atlantic City Casinos Open With Stipulations
Atlantic City Casinos have been preparing to re-open for weeks, with more protection for employees and encouraging social distancing by closing some slot machines. Murphy’s announcement will expand the threshold for indoor crowds from 50 to 100.
He didn’t make clear if the 100 maximum applies to expansive facilities like casinos.
“While this guidance is not complete, you should fully expect that they will include mandatory face coverings, and masks, and health screenings for all visitors and staff,” Murphy said during his briefing. “You should also expect density limits or capacity limits to ensure social distancing while inside the casino, among other measures.”
Murphy pledged to offer more details on public safety and health guidelines in the days to come, before the scheduled re-launch. Some casinos will offer “soft openings” to preview the changes for certain customers.
The timing allows them to welcome guests for the July 4th weekend, traditionally a major holiday for the Jersey Shore.
NJ Casinos Will Open With Rules In Place
In addition to Atlantic City, the state will reopen the horse racing facilities across the state, along with the sportsbooks operating on the premises.
This will return action to the state’s predominant retail facility run by FanDuel at the Meadowlands, along with William Hill’s windows at Monmouth Park in Oceanport.
The tracks will be allowed only 250 customers at once, the current outdoor facility maximum.
Murphy took a positive perspective as the state’s new cases and hospitalization numbers continue to fall. He noted should the downward trends continue, New Jersey will move into Phase 3, which will increase indoor and outdoor gathering sizes.
He did warn that any “knuckleheads” who blatantly ignored health guidelines, like wearing masks indoors, would be escorted off the premises.
Atlantic City and the gaming industry has suffered significantly during the shutdown, as the facilities that employ around 27,000 workers from dealers and pit bosses to wait for staff and housekeepers have gone dormant during a normally brisk period of the spring and early summer.
NJ Online Casinos During Pandemic
NJ Online casinos have managed to retain some business for their companies but the lack of traditional sporting options has hurt many with sportsbooks and clientele who like to bet live.
The state Senate has passed a relief plan for these companies, including tax breaks, interest-free loans, and grants to boost funds. Many unemployed have waited for food distributions organized by labor unions.