Things are going to be different when Atlantic City’s casinos finally reopen, according to Steve Callender.
“You won’t see shows in theaters for a while. You won’t see people gathering. We’ll be doing social distancing in our bars and in our clubs. It won’t be the same. Slot machines, they won’t all be working. There will be a limited number of slots. Clean and safe are very important to us, and you will see Plexiglas in some places,” said Callender, who serves as president of the New Jersey Casino Association.
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated New Jersey’s critical gaming industry, leaving at least 25,000 people in casino-related jobs out of work.
“It’s a lot of money that’s being lost by the industry. It’s not just the casino, it’s people that are vendors and suppliers that work all through the state of New Jersey that make their money based on Atlantic City. There’s huge financial losses and I think we just needs to start getting back to normal, even if it’s a little bit at a time,” he said.
Callender says the association is partnering with AtlantiCare to develop a safe reopening strategy that will be unique to each casino.
“Frankly, they’re the health experts, and that’s the way we look at it. We’re casino operators. We certainly want to keep people safe, but they’ve been a big help in letting us know what’s working and not working,” Callender said.
For sports betting, getting back to normal will depend on more than just safety protocols, according to Jane Bokunewicz.
“There’s really not much to bet on. I looked on the Draft King site this morning, you can bet on a soccer game in Niagara and maybe some table tennis games, but there’s really not much you can wage on,” said Bokunewicz, coordinator for the Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.
But what about in-person bets?
“Once sports betting gets back online, it’s conceivable to expect that even the people who use to bet face-to-face in the casinos will now bet online. Initially, maybe you’ll still be able to go to a bar if you sit 6 feet away from the next the person, but it’s not going to be that social experience that it was before the shutdown; Have a couple drinks, you’d be with a group of friends, you would have something to eat, and you would be betting on different sporting events. That probably won’t happen until the social distancing restrictions are eased considerably,” she said.
However, Bokunewiscz does believe there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I think there is going to be pent up demand and people are really going to enjoy getting back to doing the things that they like,” she said.
While there’s no concrete blueprint in place for reopening the state’s casinos, when they are finally up and running it’s clear that placing a bet in Atlantic City will look a lot different.