Atlantic City Casinos Accepting Reservations, NJ Senate President Concerned Too Slowly

Posted on: May 20, 2020, 08:04h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2020, 11:04h.

Several Atlantic City casinos are again taking hotel reservations. But there’s no word from the governor’s office as to when they might be permitted to reopen. And that’s a major concern for one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers.

Atlantic City casinos coronavirus
Shops along the Atlantic City Boardwalk remain closed, but casinos hope to soon reopen. (Image: Matt Rourke/AP)

Hard Rock Atlantic City is accepting room reservations for arrivals beginning May 28. Tropicana, Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s, and Resorts are taking bookings for stays starting on June 7. Golden Nugget and Ocean Casino have their earliest date as June 15.

MGM Resorts’ Borgata, the casino that pulls in more money than any other Atlantic City property, is delaying reservations until July 1.

All nine casinos in Atlantic City have been closed since March 16, when New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ordered them to suspend operations. The state reported 1,055 new COVID-19 tests this week, bringing the Garden State total to 149,013.

Senator Worried

Compared to other governors, some say, Murphy has been slow to ease restrictions. He’s gradually announced reopening of businesses day-by-day. This week, he allowed batting cages, golf driving ranges, horseback riding centers, tennis clubs, shooting ranges, and community gardens to reopen.

There’s no word as to when casino gambling might be permitted to resume. But the governor said last week that the state isn’t “remotely there yet.” Murphy tweeted yesterday, “LOOK: We’re not out of the woods yet. Our standing in comparison to our neighboring states is improving, but we have much more work to do together. Keep it up.”

Murphy’s decision to slowly reopen the state is a great concern to New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D).

My big fear is we’re going to open later than we should,” Sweeney told the Press of Atlantic City this week. “Give guidance to business owners, and if there’s a problem, we shut them down. But at least give the businesses an opportunity.”

Sweeney says Atlantic County has done a phenomenal job in containing the coronavirus, and the region has a “dynamite” reopening plan. “Instead of us trying to provide plans to them, let them decide,” the senate president declared.

Summer Blues

Atlantic City casinos are losing out on millions of dollars each day they’re closed. Last month alone, gross gaming revenue (GGR) excluding sports betting tumbled from $244.16 million in April 2019 to $79.95 million – a 67 percent loss, or more than $164.2 million.

May will be similar, as land-based gambling remains shuttered. GGR from land-based casinos, online gambling, and sports betting (including mobile and the state’s two horse racetracks) in May 2019 totaled $276.77 million.

Atlantic City desperately needs the summer months, the resort town’s busiest time of the year.

2019 GGR

June $283.76 million

July $334.38 million

August $352.79 million

Murphy has allowed beaches and boardwalks to reopen in time for this weekend’s Memorial Day holiday, as has Maryland.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has urged his citizens not to go. “There are people there (NJ beaches) who aren’t wearing masks and you’re putting yourself at risk,” Wolf opined. “I’m not sure why the governors … have opened their beaches, but they have.”