As New Jersey’s economy starts to reopen, Atlantic City casinos stand ready to welcome employees and guests back to our great city for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. In preparation for our reopening on July 2, the Casino Association of New Jersey has developed a plan in consultation with our regional health care provider AtlantiCare, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and UNITE HERE, the hospitality workers’ labor union. This comprehensive plan ensures our properties are prepared and ready to reopen as we move into a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The health and safety of our staff, guests and Atlantic City residents are our top priorities, and we are taking every precaution to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. That is why we are implementing safety measures that enhance cleaning and sanitization; promote social distancing throughout the property and gaming floors; educate employees on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19; require employees to wear masks and be screened before starting their shifts; install signage with guidelines for guests; and ensure all nightclubs, buffets and large venues remain closed until larger group gatherings are permitted. Social distancing will be promoted throughout all gaming areas, including tables and slot machines.
All Atlantic City casinos will use the guidelines we developed in coordination with AtlantiCare, DGE and UNITE HERE as a starting point to help ensure their safe reopening. In addition, each casino property has developed their own individual, detailed reopening plan that is dedicated to creating a safe environment for their guests and employees. All properties will comply with or even exceed local or state mandates.
I have spent my entire gaming career in Atlantic City. Over the last 42 years, I have seen the industry rebuild from many obstacles. From the 2008 recession, to the consolidation of the market, to a state government shutdown, to Hurricanes Gloria and Irene and Superstorm Sandy – Atlantic City has faced crises before, and it has always come back stronger than ever. Rebuilding from the COVID-19 pandemic will be no different.
The casino industry is the backbone of New Jersey’s economy with a total economic impact of $6.45 billion. Before the state-mandated closure in March, Atlantic City casinos directly employed more than 26,000 people and fueled New Jersey’s tourism economy by welcoming 27 million visitors annually. The introduction of online gaming, the passage of sports betting and the opening of two new world-class casino resorts has bolstered the industry and local economy. While our properties have not been open, online gaming has continued to rise throughout the pandemic. In addition, our tax impact to state and local governments is over $1 billion, and we paid nearly $500 million in local, county and state taxes in 2019 alone. We also support so many local New Jersey vendors through various purchases and donate millions in financial resources to support local charities.
But what’s most important is that Atlantic City has always offered visitors an exciting and entertaining destination full of revelry and family-fun. It is a resort city known for its many casinos, wide beaches and iconic Boardwalk. It is also deeply rooted in New Jersey’s history. And if history is any indication, our great city will not just survive this crisis, but continue our ongoing revitalization into a world-class resort destination.
We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any challenge we have previously faced. Families and businesses across the state have experienced unprecedented personal and financial losses, and the road to recovery will be not be easy. But one thing that remains unchanged: New Jersey’s grit, perseverance and determination to come back from this crisis stronger than before.
The casino industry is dedicated to helping New Jersey families recover from this pandemic because we are invested in the community we serve. Our employees and guests are our neighbors, family members and friends.
We know that we will get through this together. We look forward to welcoming you back soon.
Steve Callender is president of the Casino Association of New Jersey.