Atlantic City Casinos Returning to Full Capacity, as NJ Lifts Restrictions
Beginning Wednesday, May 19, Atlantic City casinos will be able to operate at 100 percent capacity. It will be the first time they will be free of capacity limits since early March 2020.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) revealed the much-welcomed news yesterday.
“With our COVID-19 numbers, particularly hospitalizations, trending decisively in the right direction and our vaccination goals within reach, now is the time to take major steps to reopen our economy and loosen both indoor and outdoor gathering and capacity restrictions,” said Murphy. “We’ve done this the right way … by allowing data, science, and public health to guide our decision-making.”
On May 19, the nine casinos in Atlantic City will be permitted to operate at full strength. More good news — bar seating and casino buffets can resume this Friday, May 7.
While Murphy is further easing coronavirus protocols throughout the state, masks remain mandatory indoors, and six-foot social distancing guidelines still apply. The governor’s actions coincide with New York and Connecticut, which announced easing of their COVID-19 restrictions in conjunction with New Jersey.
Murphy has set a goal of having 70 percent of the Garden State population fully vaccinated by June 30. To reach that objective, approximately 4.7 million New Jerseyans will need to become fully vaccinated with either two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson.
The New Jersey Department of Health says as of today, more than 3.26 million people in the state are fully vaccinated from the 2019 coronavirus.
“Over these next few weeks, I encourage all remaining eligible New Jerseyans to get vaccinated so we can continue fighting back against this virus and move toward a ‘new normal’ for ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones,” Murphy added.
Let’s keep it up.
Keep getting vaccinated.
Keep using your common sense.
We’re getting there – together.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) May 3, 2021
Murphy’s decision to allow Atlantic City to get back to some sense of normal comes as the warmer summer months approach. The season is traditionally the busiest for the east coast’s gaming capital, as people from across the Mid-Atlantic and northeast descend on the beach town.
In 2019, prior to the pandemic, Atlantic City casinos reported hotel occupancy of roughly 86 percent between April through September. In Q1 — January through March — hotel occupancy was 72.6 percent, and in Q4 — October through December — 72.2 percent.
Antismoking advocates have seized the opportunity to use COVID-19 to their advantage in convincing people that indoor public smoking should be banned everywhere — including casinos.
The Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights is leading the campaign to urge state lawmakers in Trenton to end the exemption that allows guests inside Atlantic City casinos to smoke. Murphy responded to an inquiry this week regarding the possibility of legislation being introduced that would seek to end the casino carveout from New Jersey’s Smoke-Free Air Act of 2006.
“I’ve seen the [antismoking] advocates make, I think, a very compelling case,” Murphy answered. However, the governor added that at this point, he has “no opinion” whether he supports banning casino smoking indoors.
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