Atlantic City Casinos Returning to Full Capacity, as NJ Lifts Restrictions

Posted on: May 4, 2021, 05:38h. 

Last updated on: June 23, 2021, 01:40h.

Beginning Wednesday, May 19, Atlantic City casinos will be able to operate at 100 percent capacity. It will be the first time they will be free of capacity limits since early March 2020.

Atlantic City casinos New Jersey restrictions
Craps players gamble at Hard Rock Atlantic City last summer. Later this month, the nine gaming floors in town will be allowed to conduct business at 100 percent capacity. (Image: Vineland Daily Journal)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) revealed the much-welcomed news yesterday. 

Now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions,” Murphy said in a statement yesterday.

On May 19, the nine casinos in Atlantic City will be permitted to operate at full strength. More good news: bar seating and casino buffets can resume this Friday, May 7. 

While Murphy is further easing coronavirus protocols throughout the state, masks remain mandatory indoors, and six-foot social distancing guidelines still apply. The governor’s actions coincide with New York and Connecticut, which announced an easing of their COVID-19 restrictions in conjunction with New Jersey. 

Vaccine Importance

Murphy has set a goal of having 70 percent of the Garden State population fully vaccinated by June 30. To reach that objective, approximately 4.7 million New Jerseyans will need to become fully vaccinated with either two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson. 

The New Jersey Department of Health says as of today, more than 3.26 million people in the state are fully vaccinated from the 2019 coronavirus. 

“Over these next few weeks, I encourage all remaining eligible New Jerseyans to get vaccinated so we can continue fighting back against this virus and move toward a ‘new normal’ for ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones,” Murphy added.

Murphy’s decision to allow Atlantic City to get back to some sense of normal comes as the warmer summer months approach. The season is traditionally the busiest for the east coast’s gaming capital, as people from across the Mid-Atlantic and northeast descend on the beach town.

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Atlantic City casinos reported hotel occupancy of roughly 86 percent between April through September. In Q1  (January through March) hotel occupancy was 72.6 percent and in Q4  (October through December) 72.2 percent.  

Smoking Matters

Antismoking advocates have seized the opportunity to use COVID-19 to their advantage in convincing people that indoor public smoking should be banned everywhere, including casinos. 

The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights is leading the campaign to urge state lawmakers in Trenton to end the exemption that allows guests inside Atlantic City casinos to smoke. Murphy responded to an inquiry this week regarding the possibility of legislation being introduced that would seek to end the casinos carveout from New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006. 

“I’ve seen the [antismoking] advocates make, I think, a very compelling case,” Murphy answered. However, the governor added that at this point, he has “no opinion” whether he supports banning casino smoking indoors.