New York Casinos Capacity Expands, But No Drinks After Midnight

Posted on: April 26, 2021, 08:08h. 

Last updated on: July 19, 2021, 02:56h.

UPDATE (12:15 PM ET) – This article was updated to include a comment from del Lago officials on the casino capacity expansion and to correct information attributed to the New York Racing Association. NYRA said it has not received guidance from the state on reopening to fans.

For the second straight month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has eased a COVID-19 restriction for the state’s gaming venues. On Monday, he announced that the state’s casinos and racinos can host guests at up to 50 percent capacity.

New York casinos
Patrons walk around a pre-pandemic Resorts World New York Casino. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that casinos will be able to operate at up to 50 percent capacity starting on May 19. (Image: Behind the Scenes NYC/Resorts World NYC)

The measure takes effect on May 19.

Last month, the governor lifted the 11 pm curfew on casinos. That allowed them to resume their normal operating hours as of April 5.

The state reported some of its lowest COVID-19 totals in months on Monday. The seven-day average positivity rate is 2.13 percent, the lowest since Nov. 8, and the 3,174 hospitalized is the state’s lowest total since Nov. 26.

“We are making tremendous progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Cuomo said. “Our vaccination rates are going up, and the positivity and hospitalization rates are going down, so now we are going to open the valves of our economy even further… This is all great news, but we are not out of the woods yet. Washing hands, wearing masks, and staying socially distanced are critical tools each of us can use to slow the spread, as we continue our efforts to defeat COVID-19 once and for all.”

Lance Young, general manager for del Lago Casino and Resort, said in a statement to the Waterloo casino is looking forward to welcoming more patrons next month.

“The increase in capacity at venues across the state is a step closer in getting back to normal,” Young said. “We appreciate our team and community members for their continued support through the challenges of the last year.”

NY Bars and Restaurants Still Under Curfew

Not all hospitality industry venues get the same treatment in New York. While Casinos and large-scale outdoor venues can add capacity – large outdoor venues will go from 20 percent to 33 percent on May 19 – restaurants in the state remain under tighter restrictions.

In New York City, restaurants and bars are capped at 50 percent capacity for indoor dining. Outside the Big Apple, establishments can offer indoor dining at 75 percent capacity.

However, bars and restaurants are still under a curfew. Last week, Cuomo extended that to midnight.

Melissa Fleischut, president and CEO of the New York State Restaurant Association, said in a statement the curfew isn’t fact-based. She added that it’s “misleading and irresponsible” to give any credence to the suggestion the hospitality industry is liable for any of the 41 COVID deaths the state reported on Sunday.

We have yet to see data confirming that a restaurant staying open later at night is riskier than an afternoon,” she said. “It’s time to remove these arbitrary restrictions. Let’s create a plan that details full reopening for our industry. Most other states have that already.”

For casinos, that means while people can play on the gaming floor all night long, they won’t be able to grab a bite or get a drink while they play blackjack or slots through all hours of the night.

Bars and restaurants have been under the curfew since last November, when Cuomo was trying to lessen the impact of the holiday surge.

Businesses violating the curfew face fines of up to $10,000 and a possible loss of license.

NYRA Tracks Holds Off on Fans For Now

Earlier this month, Cuomo also announced that the state’s racetracks would be able to welcome fans back to the track as well. On April 14, he announced that tracks could welcome fans at 20 percent capacity. He also timed the order to coincide with the start of Belmont Park’s spring meet last Thursday.

However, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) held off on that for the time being as state officials have not yet provided the specific reopening protocols for tracks.

NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement last week that track officials can’t wait for fans to return to Belmont and Saratoga Race Course later this summer.

“NYRA is committed to ensuring the safest possible environment for fans and will make any adjustments necessary so that the Northwell Health vaccination center operating at Belmont can continue to serve as many New Yorkers as possible,” O’Rourke added.

Racing resumes Thursday at the Long Island track, located just across the Cross Island Parkway from Queens. However, it will still continue without fans lining up along the rail or in front of the betting windows.