Atlantic City’s casino market will be missing its leading light when gaming operations resume on July 2.
Last week, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that AC’s casinos could partially reopen their brick-and-mortar gaming operations on July 2, ending their three-plus month COVID-19 closure. But MGM Resorts’ Borgata property said Monday that it won’t be joining this party.
The Borgata’s announcement followed Murphy’s surprise proclamation earlier Monday that he was delaying the planned rollout of indoor dining across the state. Casinos are included in this delay, and must also not serve any beverages – alcohol included – on their gaming floors or at indoor bars.
Murphy, who didn’t offer any indication of when this ban might be lifted, said the reversal was due to the recent surge in COVID-19 infections in many US states, a situation he claimed had been “compounded by instances of knucklehead behavior here at home.”
Murphy was responding to scenes this weekend at several outdoor dining and drinking establishments, at which patrons were observed ignoring social distancing requirements and not wearing masks, contrary to recommendations by state medical authorities. Murphy said Monday that “compliance is not a polite suggestion. It is a requirement.”
The Borgata had planned to reopen on Monday, July 6, but MGM issued a statement Monday saying the Borgata was abandoning this plan. The company said “our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed” until Murphy lets the Borgata be the Borgata.
The AC casinos that do reopen on Thursday will only be permitted to operate at 25% of normal capacity and with strict precautionary measures in place, including mandatory mask use by customers.
MGM and rival Caesars Entertainment each announced nationwide mandatory mask policies for all customers last week. Caesars reportedly still plans to open its three AC properties on Friday (3) but it’s unclear how many other casinos might now choose to follow the Borgata’s lead.
New Jersey reported 156 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the statewide total to 171k. The state also reported 18 more deaths, bringing the confirmed death tally to 13,138, plus another 1,854 suspected COVID-19 fatalities.