Governor Murphy Bans Indoor Dining, Smoking in Casinos in AC

Following an order issued late on Monday by NJ Governor Phil Murphy, casinos will not offer wining or dining on their casino floors nor allow smoking.

Indoor Dining, Smoking and Drinks Banned in Atlantic City’s Casinos

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has decided against indoor dining following a surge in the cases of coronavirus in the state as well as non-compliance with issued health recommendations and guidelines. Gov. Murphy has also issued a ban on drinking and smoking on the premises of Atlantic City’s casinos as they prepare to restart this week.

Commenting on the issue Gov. Murphy cited the lack of face masks and specifically using face masks as the main reason for prompting his decision. The added danger of contracting COVID-19, which has been spreading across the country, has helped the governor settle his mind on the issue.

The measures were announced in a press release email sent to members of the press late on Monday. Further to the smoking ban and consumption of alcohol, the governor explicitly forbids any food or alcohol consumption inside the casinos.

The Borgata Scraps Reopening Plan After New Restrictions

Responding to the announcement, the Borgata stated that it would not be reopening in light of the restrictive measures. The casino was planning to soft-launch on Thursday and then open to the broader public on July 6, but none of this will happen now.

The Borgata didn’t specify what had prompted the decision in detail, i.e. whether it was the government’s ban on smoking or alcohol that dissuades the property from restarting operations.

Commenting on these developments, the Tropicana casino manager and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, Steve Callender, argued that lack of smoking was “very bad for casinos.”

The Associated Press asked Mr Callender whether a ban on smoking could be a “deal-breaker” for casinos and stop them from reopening. “It very could,” was Mr Callender’s swift response.

Fighting the Smoking Ban

To put things in perspective, New Jersey and Atlantic City flirted with the idea of introducing a smoking ban back in 2008, but the measure was quickly dropped after only 20 days because casino revenue plummeted, sending an unequivocal message to authorities to change their act.

To strike a sort of middle-ground, the state agreed to only restrict smoking in 25% of the total casino floor area. Commenting further on the current climate, MGM Resorts International, the owner of the Borgata, explained that the new circumstances prevented the company from pursuing reopening.

In the statement, MGM explained that the company couldn’t provide visitors and patrons with the “level of hospitality” that they deserve and the most logical step was to remain closed until further notice.

“The health and safety of our employees and guests are at the center of all that we do, and we regret that, at this time, we are unable to welcome back the thousands of employees who are anxious to return to work. We look forward to a time when it is safe to welcome everyone back.”

Wining and Dining at a Time of Coronavirus

While no other operator has decided to follow the Borgata’s example, many operators have cautioned that they will continue to assess the situation as it evolves and make a decision based on the available information closer to reopening date. Gov. Murphy explained that the lack of compliance and people not wearing masks or wearing them wrongly has led to an increase in the number of cases in New Jersey.

He didn’t pick his words in describing people who had ignored health experts’ recommendations, describing them as “knuckleheads” who have forced authorities to “hit pause on the restart” of indoor dining in the very least.

Thursday should see the reopening of other properties as well, including amusement and water parks, playgrounds, museums, aquariums, and libraries. However, the number of cases continues growing with some 171,000 reported as of Monday, June 29. As the virus continues to spread, the livelihood of millions of people is at risk, with casino and hospitality workers furloughed en masse.

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