New Jersey’s now-shuttered casinos could likely reopen by July 4 weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Sunday, as the state gradually rolls back restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the state.
“It’s probably still too early to give you a very specific answer, but there’s a lot of work going into that right now,” the governor said Sunday on the “AC Mike Show” with WOND-AM 1400 radio’s Mike Lopez. “But we are trying like heck to get toward, I hope, before the Fourth of July or at least by the Fourth of July.”
The state has practically been in lockdown for much of March and the entirety of April in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. Only during May have those restrictions been loosened, albeit at a rate criticized by some lawmakers as too slow.
New Jersey’s nine casinos have been closed since March 16, and their revenues, which typically clock in at hundreds of millions of dollars, has completely evaporated, save for online gambling.
Mass layoffs have ensued, and the city economy – still highly dependent on the casinos – could now teeter on a fiscal cliff as it had with five casinos in the prior decade.
“We’re spending a lot of time with the owners and operators as well as the workers and their representatives on casinos,” the governor said on Sunday.
“The bad news is casinos sort of have the attributes that are hardest to deal with this virus. It’s indoors, no ventilation,” he added. “You’re sedentary, you’re in close proximity. Having said that, they’re big footprints and we think there are successful steps that can be taken to address the challenges.”
The majority of activities and businesses allowed to resume in the state primarily function outside, where social distancing is easier.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District – an oft-times political foe of the governor – argued that casinos and hotels can begin resuming business so long as they follow public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hotels at the seaside town are beginning to offer services again to patrons, but the gaming floor is still off limits.
“Thanks to your hard work, we’ve flattened the curve of [COVID-19] in New Jersey and are now closer to Stage Two,” Murphy said on Twitter Sunday.
Thanks to your hard work, we’ve flattened the curve of #COVID19 in New Jersey and are now closer to Stage Two.
Join me live tomorrow at 2:30 PM for an important announcement.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 31, 2020
Personal care businesses, such as salons and barbershops, may be able to reopen on a limited basis—they’ve been allowed in Delaware since May 1, and as of June 1 in Connecticut.
A handful of hair salons have promised to reopen with or without the governor’s blessing, a move that drew harsh rebuke from the governor. “You’re playing with fire,” he said on May 28.
Murphy is scheduled to hold his daily COVID-19 press briefing at 2:30 p.m. on Monday at the Trenton War Memorial.