ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Atlantic Metropolis tried Prohibition as soon as earlier than. It labored so effectively that Nucky Johnson, the legendary politician and racketeer, constructed a Boardwalk empire immortalized on HBO almost a century later.
It additionally tried banning smoking, too. That lasted for 20 days as people who smoke stayed away, sending on line casino income plummeting.
However New Jersey will ban each, once more, when Atlantic Metropolis’s 9 casinos reopen after greater than three months of coronavirus-related shutdowns.
The late-night bulletins from Gov. Phil Murphy landed like a one-two punch on Atlantic Metropolis’s on line casino trade, already reeling from misplaced income in the course of the pandemic, and planning to creak again to life on the state-mandated 25 p.c of regular capability.
“No booze? Nobody’s coming,” mentioned Bob McDevitt, president of a on line casino staff union. “I actually do not even assume they need to open. Why would they?”
Many casinos had deliberate to reopen July 2, the primary day the state will allow them to. However that was earlier than they knew they may not let their prospects smoke, drink alcohol or the rest, or eat contained in the casinos.
The highest-performing on line casino, the Borgata, virtually instantly folded what it noticed as a dropping hand, asserting it was scrapping its reopening plans for the quick future. As a substitute, it is going to wait till circumstances are extra favorable.
On June 30, on line casino executives huddled in employees conferences, searching for extra info and attempting to determine whether or not it made sense to reopen in any respect.
The Resorts, Ocean, Tropicana and Golden Nugget casinos mentioned they’ll reopen July 2 as deliberate.
Jim Allen, president of Laborious Rock Worldwide, mentioned that as of June 30, the corporate nonetheless deliberate to reopen its Atlantic Metropolis on line casino July 2 however that no ultimate determination had been made.
“It is a 180-degree turnaround,” he mentioned. Laborious Rock, like the opposite eight casinos, had been making reopening plans that included smoking, ingesting and indoor eating as integral.
Murphy mentioned June 30 casinos will simply must endure a brand new actuality till circumstances enhance.
“It isn’t a life sentence,” he mentioned. “We want to be full-bore open; we’re simply not there but.”
Earlier than the pandemic, Atlantic Metropolis had began to regain its groove, reclaiming its former spot on the nation’s No. 2 playing market behind Nevada by way of annual playing income.
Nevada casinos reopened almost a month sooner than these in New Jersey, with most of the similar well being protocols: temperatures checks for friends and staff, mandated masks after being non-compulsory for a time, and hand sanitizer stations. Smoking was nonetheless allowed.
Inside minutes of Murphy’s bulletins, made in a information launch issued shortly earlier than 10 p.m. June 29, social media lit up with complaints.
Some grumbled that the governor had sucked the enjoyable out of the on line casino expertise, whilst a smaller quantity defended the choice on public well being grounds. Some mentioned they have been scrapping long-planned journeys, and others mentioned they might take their enterprise to Pennsylvania casinos.
Some vowed to return anyway, mixing drinks of their rooms and bringing sandwiches for dinner.
The bans may even scale back the variety of laid-off staff who will return. Drink servers and indoor restaurant staff have been to comprise a good portion of the pressure that had been envisioned.
McDevitt mentioned 60 p.c of his union members had been scheduled to return to work this week. Now, as few as 30 p.c could return.
Casinos can supply out of doors eating, and people with seaside bars, out of doors decks or Boardwalk seating nonetheless plan to supply it. And alcohol will nonetheless be offered in liquor shops and non-casino companies. However the very last thing casinos need is their patrons leaving the premises, for any cause.
Murphy mentioned he reversed course on indoor eating due to the persevering with outbreaks in elements of the nation, although New Jersey has seen a major discount within the variety of its virus circumstances.
A good portion of Atlantic Metropolis’s on line casino prospects comes from New York, which leads the nation in whole virus circumstances. Murphy additionally mentioned crowds at common spots on the Jersey Shore and elsewhere haven’t been following social distancing guidelines or carrying masks.
That angered many within the on line casino trade.
“That is like Catholic college: A handful of individuals misbehaves, and all the class will get punished,” McDevitt mentioned.
By WAYNE PARRY
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