New Jersey legislators, Atlantic City officials, and casino industry executives have asked Governor Phil Murphy to relax some of the restrictions on indoor gatherings so that meetings, conventions and trade shows can be held. back in town.
The city’s casinos and other non-essential businesses were closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and allowed to resume operations in early July.
After a four-month shutdown and tight restrictions on indoor gatherings, Atlantic City casino complexes have been consuming cash since its reopening.
It should also be noted that the properties also host large conventions and trade shows annually, as well as various meetings. Among the nine operating casinos and other large event facilities such as the Atlantic City Convention Center and the Sheraton Atlantic City Hotel Convention Center, the city offers more than 1.8 million square feet of meeting space in 315 rooms.
However, none of these have been used since the coronavirus swept through our lives last spring. In November alone, two major annual conventions will take place online, typically attracting thousands of delegates. Without the conventions of the New Jersey Education Association and the League of New Jersey State Municipalities, Atlantic City and New Jersey as a whole they would lose millions of dollars.
Industry asks governor to ease restrictions
Steve Callender, president of the New Jersey Casino Association and regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc., which currently operates four of the nine Atlantic City casinos, told Governor Murphy that the industry need help.
Mr. Callender noted that fall is often its best season for meetings and conventions and that without them the industry would suffer another major blow, even more jobs would need to be cut and the economic recovery would take much longer.
The president of the Association of Casinos also pointed out that it is necessary that they be allowed to resume holding meetings and conventions and that the indoor dining capacity should be increased to 50%. Mr. Callender said the city’s nine casinos are prepared to host larger gatherings in full compliance with the state’s public health and social measures and “can do well.”
Mark Giannantonio, President and CEO of Resorts Casino Hotel, said that the casino industry “has developed the strictest health and safety protocols” and that they have “Successfully received and safely the dinners indoors, and now is the time to start receiving confidently supporting convention and meeting business. “
Several state legislators have also asked Governor Murphy to consider easing some of the restrictions. Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato wrote to the top state official in September that without meetings and conventions, “the negative economic impact on businesses large and small, including lost wages, will be devastating for the market and residents from Atlantic City and Atlantic County. “
Bob McDevitt, president of UNITE HERE Local 54, the union that represented more than 10,000 casino workers before the Covid-19 pandemic, said that only about 70% of union members have returned to their jobs since the nine Atlantic City casinos resumed operations in July. According to Mr. McDevitt, if meetings and conventions resume, another 5% could return to work.
The union president said he was confident that the industry could manage in a responsible and successful manner the increase of inner capacities.
Increased cases could lead to tighter restrictions
While the industry is requesting permission to hold meetings and conventions and to increase canteen capacity, a recent spike in new Covid-19 cases across the state could result in the implementation of more restrictions.
Governor Murphy even suggested Friday that Indoor meals in the state could be shut down entirely if the cases continue to increase.
However, more restrictions and the traditional slow winter and early spring could be devastating for the Atlantic City casino industry, executives warn. As mentioned above, the city’s nine casinos lost millions of dollars during the four-month shutdown and have been registering drops in income every month since its reopening in July.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Atlantic City casino industry had just begun to recover from a nightmare in the first half of the decade in which four of its casinos closed their doors. Executives certainly fear that further prolonged restrictions will eventually result in a new wave of permanent closures.