Will COVID Spike Cause Atlantic City Casinos To Close Down Again?

Posted on December 7, 2020

Unlike most NJ sports betting and NJ online casino sites, It’s been a rough year for the casinos in Atlantic City. So, will Atlantic City Casinos close again?

As the COVID-19 global pandemic rages on, shutdowns to prevent the spread have turned a once lively boardwalk into a ghost town.

After closing their doors in the spring, casinos in Atlantic City have been open since the summer, when they were allowed to reopen. However, there is trepidation that whatever momentum they’ve rebuilt over the last few months to try and get customers back could be in jeopardy.

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That’s because the Garden State is in the midst of enduring a big second wave and there are rumblings that the casinos might shutdown again. Governor Phil Murphy has indicated that casinos are not a problem spot right now but will they end up closing again soon? Let’s take a closer look at the situation:

The Current COVID-19 Situation

One of the biggest concerns in New Jersey is the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases. Of course, this is the number that’s talked about daily as the metric that indicates which way things are heading. Unfortunately, in New Jersey, the numbers are heading in the wrong direction.

Consider that on September 16th, there was just 334 cases record in the state and mostly through September, we saw between 300-500 cases daily. Contrast that next to the cases from Friday, which clocked in at 5,663 – in one day!

  • The other concern with the number is that 5,663 represents a new high in cases so far.
  • In early spring, the Garden State saw cases hit about 4,300 at their peak but the numbers currently are way past that and are rising.

The question is how high will they go?

  • In places like nearby Toronto, Canada, cases are currently triple what they were in the spring.
  • If New Jersey follows suit, they’ll be in the range of 12,000 or 13,000 cases per day; could they possibly keep things open if that’s the case?

Murphy Says Casinos Aren’t A Problem

Governor Phil Murphy has been working closely with the casinos in Atlantic City throughout all of 2020 and for much of the year, the relationship hasn’t been smooth. He forced them to close in the spring, they pushed to open up before he was ready to do so and he’s implemented some recent restrictions on them again.

Atlantic City Casino Closing Situation

On the bright side, Murphy has clearly stated that casinos are not a problem right now. He’s been flattering to the gaming venues, praising their efforts to maintain cleanliness and sanitation on the gaming floors. They’ve taken proper precautions and executed their safety plans well. Murphy came out and stated that there is no evidence that casino gaming floors are propagating the virus.

At the same time, Murphy did implement a curfew on casino food and beverage service. Indoor dining now has a curfew of 10:00 PM and all barside dining must be stopped – at all hours. Restaurants must separate tables by at least six feet but they are able to bring them closer if there is a barrier.

In short, it’s the first step towards some changes. The question is whether this will be enough or if a tougher crackdown will be required.

Pennsylvania, Michigan Casinos Have Closed

As we’ve seen throughout this entire pandemic, the different states will employ different strategies. However, the fact that nearby Pennsylvania has closed down their casinos again could be a bad omen for Atlantic City. It’s all the same neighborhood and for the most part, these states tend to think alike. Beyond that, we’ve also seen other casinos around the country move in the same direction.

In Michigan, most casinos remain open for now but six tribal casinos have closed. In Arizona, a casino in Tucson has also closed shop for the remainder of 2020. Illinois and California have closed casinos – along with many other types of businesses – and eyes are slowly shifting back to Las Vegas to see whether they do the same.

If everyone starts to head in that direction, it will be difficult for Atlantic City to go their own way and keep their gaming floors open. They’ll face plenty of pressure to close things down – especially if their COVID-19 numbers continue to spike.

Could A Vaccine Save The Day?

There is a lot of optimism these days about a vaccine but there are still no definitive answers about it. At this point, we don’t fully know who has the best vaccine, whether it will work for everyone, and what the side effects will be.

It does look like something with a 95% effective rate will be out this month but the next question becomes how many people can get their hands on a vaccine? The early reports suggest that the elderly and those with comorbidities will be first to receive it, which means healthy people might not get it for months.

Of course, if this works, then everyone can start getting back to normal. If it’s not as effective as expected or there aren’t enough doses to go around, this might not change the short-term picture.

What To Expect?

At this point, it looks like New Jersey will have to close casinos in the not-so-distant future if their numbers continue to move in this direction. It is possible that they go on a region-by-region basis and if Atlantic City doesn’t have the type of rising in cases, they might escape new restrictions.

At the same time, the entire state and country appear to be heading for bigger COVID-19 numbers than in the spring. If those numbers are, in fact, double or triple as we see with Italy and Spain’s second wave, it’s going to be very difficult for Murphy to leave anything open – let alone the casinos.

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