COVID-19 Restrictions on Atlantic City Casinos Extended Another 30 Days

Posted on: January 19, 2021, 01:15h. 

Last updated on: January 19, 2021, 01:48h.

Atlantic City casinos will continue operating under strict capacity limits and numerous health safeguards for at least another 30 days.

Atlantic City casinos New Jersey Murphy
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is seen here in December touring a COVID-19 vaccination site. The governor today extended the state’s public health emergency by another 30 days, which lengthens restrictions imposed on Atlantic City casinos. (Image: Bergen Record)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) today extended his public health emergency for an 11th time. The decision means the nine casinos in Atlantic City will remain limited to 25 percent capacity of their fire code, not including employees.

Guests and workers must continue to wear face masks, seating is reduced at table games, and slot machine banks have been rearranged to promote social distancing.

The first-term governor says the state hospital system is stable. Murphy is optimistic the vaccination process will expedite under President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Murphy, while extending the public health emergency and the state saying it “strongly discourages all nonessential interstate travel,” announced he will be in the nation’s capital tomorrow for Biden’s inauguration.

“Tomorrow begins a new day in our nation’s history,” Murphy tweeted. “I will have the tremendous honor of attending the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” Murphy declared.

Casinos Open, Struggling

Atlantic City’s nine casinos saw their brick-and-mortar gross gaming revenue (GGR) drop 44 percent in 2020. The gaming floors won $1.512 billion last year, a nearly $1.2 billion loss from 2019.

While many gaming industry analysts and executives entered 2021 with a sense of optimism, the ongoing capacity restrictions, nightly suspension of indoor food and beverage service, and urging of people to stay home is wreaking havoc on Atlantic City’s economic engine.

Fewer customers, guests, and gamblers mean reduced operating profits for the nine casino resorts. Through nine months of 2020, gross operating profits were down 86 percent to $68.1 million. Roughly 30 percent of the city’s 15,105 casino hotel rooms went unoccupied through three quarters.

The final quarter and full-year results have not yet been released.

Online gaming and mobile sports betting have helped, but certainly not enough to offset the colossal land-based GGR losses. Industry-wide GGR totaled $2.88 billion last year, a year-over-year decline of almost 17 percent.

Trump Plaza Update

As reported yesterday, the auction to hit the implosion button on the Trump Plaza demolition was abruptly called off. Attorneys and representatives for the Boardwalk property’s owner Carl Icahn said the auction event jeopardized the safety of leveling the long-shuttered casino resort.

The high bid stood at $175,000. The proceeds of the auction were to go to the Boys & Girl Club of Atlantic City.

Icahn, a billionaire worth an estimated $15.6 billion by Forbes, told the Associated Press that he will cover the $175,000 and make the donation to the Boys & Girls Club.

“From the beginning, we thought the auction and any other related spectacle presented a safety risk, and we were always clear that we would not participate in any way,” a statement from Icahn Enterprises read.