Gaming operators in Atlantic City reported 251 positive Covid-19 cases since the reopening of the city’s nine casinos in early July. With a strong increase in infection rates in October, restaurant and bar employees were the most affected.
Safety Measures Seem To Be Working
Atlantic City casino operators reported 251 new positive cases of Covid-19 among employees since reopening on July 2 at 25% capacity. More than 60% of those cases occurred in October.
Direct casino-hotel workers, including executives, housekeepers, bellhops, security personnel, kitchen workers, administrative staff, slot attendants, and dealers were the most affected, with 172 cases. Employees of various Atlantic City catering businesses reported 79 cases.
In total, only a bit more than 1% of the entire Atlantic City casino workforce tested positive, according to employment data in September. The relatively low number is due to the safety measures implemented by casinos, which shows that the reopening plan and guidelines worked.
According to Jane F. Bokunewicz, coordinator of the Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality & Tourism at Stockton University, the use of enhanced cleaning and management procedures and social distancing “seem to be having an impact in protecting employees and guests”.
Many other states have been reporting similarly low case rates. In Pennsylvania, only 108 have tested positive for Covid-19 out of the state’s 16,000 casino employees since the reopening of gaming facilities in June.
Low Numbers Are Not Surprising
The Casino Association of New Jersey (CANJ) and AtlantiCare, as well as labor union Unite Here Local 54 and New Jersey health and gaming officials, developed a plan outlining specific safety procedures and measures for the reopening of the city’s nine casinos on July 2.
Some casinos took additional initiatives, such as improving airflow through building upgrades or setting mandatory temperature screenings of guests.
“These are unprecedented times, which is why the industry has taken extraordinary measures to safely welcome back thousands of hardworking employees and valued guests, while also helping to minimize the exposure of Atlantic City casino property guests, our employees, and our local community to the Covid-19 virus.”Steve Callender, president of the CANJ and regional president of Caesars Entertainment
Dan Heneghan, an industry consultant and retired public information officer for the state Casino Control Commission, said that the low amount of positive cases “shouldn’t come as a surprise”, as casino operators were required to maintain a strict level of vigilance in order to remain open.
New Jersey Businesses Might Need Additional Protocols
Nearly 61% of all the positive cases in Atlantic City’s casino workforce were reported for October. This rise is in line with infection rates increasing nationwide that month. The casino’s restaurant and bar employees are the most affected, with 71 out of the 81 total positive cases reported in October. Indoor dining at 25% and beverage services resumed in early September.
As positive cases rise across New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy suggested new measures could be implemented to prevent further contamination.
Mr. Callender said the CANJ is ready “to refine and update [their] protocols as local and state mandates evolve to protect [their} employees, vendors, tenants, and guests. “We remain dedicated to complying with, or exceeding, local or state-imposed mandates, restrictions, and occupancy limits to try to maintain a healthy environment,” he added.
Local 54 President Bob McDevitt shared his concerns on the impact the pandemic can have on casino properties.
The labor union represented 10,000 casino employees before the pandemic. Last August, Local 54 demanded that Caesars’ Bally’s Atlantic City (now operated by Twin River Worldwide Holdings), Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, and Tropicana Atlantic City conduct temperature screenings as the other five casino properties do.