Casinos re-work reopening plans with indoor dining out of the mix (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//June 30, 2020//

Casinos re-work reopening plans with indoor dining out of the mix (updated)

Daniel J. Munoz//June 30, 2020//

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As casinos ponder whether they can reopen Thursday, now that the brakes have been put on indoor dining – previously set to resume that same day, Gov. Phil Murphy is pushing back on calls for the Atlantic City establishments to be offered some type of exemption for food or beverage services.

“Believe me, we would like to be open, we’re just not there yet. There’s no further color in terms of exceptions to what we announced yesterday,” Murphy said Tuesday afternoon at his daily COVID-19 press briefing at the Trenton War Memorial. “It brings me no joy to not allow them to get back fully on their feet.”

Shortly after Murphy announced on Monday that he would pause the July 2 restart of indoor dining, the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa said it will postpone its reopening.

New Jersey’s nine casinos are still allowed to reopen, at reduced capacity. Face coverings are required, physical distancing must be adhered to, and staff must frequently sanitize the establishment.

Get more on the kick-off and recovery for NJ casinos from our Gaming Spotlight:

Betting on the Garden State: Atlantic City gaming palaces have models for reopening in other states, and an advantage over a rival gaming mecca.

Games on: New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck on how closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of online sports betting to the state’s gaming industry.

The next challenge: Casino Association of New Jersey President Steve Callender details how Atlantic City casinos prepared to welcome employees and guests back.

“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 such time that the governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage,” Borgata’s parent company, MGM Resorts International, said in a Monday statement.

Their prospects had been particularly worsened after casinos were told that they could not serve alcohol on the casino floor or any indoor bars, while smoking would not be allowed upon reopening.

“All of the casino operators are in the same boat and are still waiting for official guidelines in regards to reopening,” Tom Pohlman, general manager at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, posted on Facebook on Monday.

A slew of other reopenings are slated to commence throughout the week, and malls reopened on Monday, but indoor dining was perhaps the most highly anticipated. The state allowed outdoor dining to resume on June 15.

Resorts Casino Hotel said it plans to reopen Thursday at 8 a.m., as will Ocean Casino Resort, which first opened its doors just over two years ago.

Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City.
Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. – RESORTS CASINO HOTEL

Under Ocean Casino Resort’s plan, the 60-story casino and hotel will offer pick-up at its indoor restaurants, as well as a slew of food and beer trucks, an outdoor bar area and several outside lounges.

Mark Giannantonio, the president and chief executive officer at Resorts, said the establishment plans to shift several of its inside restaurants and bars to the outdoors.

“The health and safety of our guests and team members is our top priority and we are ready,” he said.

Officials at Hard Rock Hotel Casino Atlantic City – which first opened its doors around the same time as Ocean Casino Resort, said its establishment will still open on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the Casino Association of New Jersey – the trade group representing the state’s casinos, said the casinos should offer food indoors for takeout only, where it could be eaten outside.

Outdoor bars and restaurants can continue – or start – to offer outdoor dining, the CANJ said, and hotel guests could still order room service to eat in their hotel room.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, who represents large chunks of South Jersey and has often-times politically sparred with the governor, said he worried that the lack of indoor dining might push more casinos away from reopening.

“This is a huge, huge piece of opening the casinos,” Sweeney told reporters following a Monday Senate voting session—the first in-person session in three months. “Who wants to go to a casino if you can’t get dinner or a drink?”

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 7:54 a.m. EST on July 1, 2020 to include that the Hard Rock Casino will be open and to include that Casino Association of New Jersey ‘s view on how food should be carry-out.