Atlantic City Skyline

Skyline of Atlantic City as seen from the top of The Enclave, Tuesday, May 28, 2019. (VERNON OGRODNEK / For The Press)

{child_flags:featured}{child_flags:breaking}Casinos, AtlantiCare team up on reopen plan

{child_byline}DAVID DANZIS

Staff Writer

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ATLANTIC CITY — The Casino Association of New Jersey and AtlantiCare announced a partnership Wednesday to develop a reopening plan once the indefinite shutdown of the industry is lifted.

The plan is being developed by the Casino Association, the industry’s lobbying arm, with the consultation of the regional health care provider “to assist the Murphy administration and regulators in thoughtfully developing comprehensive reopening plans that prioritize the safety and well-being of employees, guests and the community at large,” according to a news release.

On March 16, Gov. Phil Murphy ordered Atlantic City’s nine casinos to close in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Five days later, the governor issued a stay-at-home order for the entire state.

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association and senior vice president of Eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts, said operators “want Atlantic City to be ready to open as soon as the government determines it is appropriate to do so.”

AtlantiCare will share regional health care metrics, data and forecasts and offer guidance on the casino industry’s reopening protocols. Additionally, it will provide information about the effectiveness of protocols and best practices within its own health care system, according to the release.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement did not immediately respond Wednesday to a question about whether the CANJ/AtlantiCare plan required regulatory approval.

The health and safety measures that will be implemented by gaming operators once business resumes, not just in Atlantic City but across the country, are still being worked out. Masks for both guests and employees, plexiglass separators at table games and increased distances between slot machines are among the ideas being discussed.

A timeline for the reopening of Atlantic City’s casinos, and many other New Jersey businesses, is uncertain. Murphy and state health officials released a six-point economic restart plan Monday with steps that are still weeks away from being realized, including expanded COVID-19 testing, a sustained reduction in new cases and a robust contact tracing program.

Even after Atlantic City’s casinos are reopened, industry executives are mindful that a return to normalcy is a ways off.

Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming, told CNBC last week he believed it could take up to a year to fully recover from the shutdown of the company’s casinos, hotels and restaurants.

Allen said Hard Rock was “very concerned” about regional markets, such as Atlantic City, as “we try to navigate through the summer, which is traditionally the time of year when the Atlantic City casinos have their most profitable months.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only threatened our health and safety, it has also threatened the stability of Atlantic City’s gaming and tourism industry, the industry’s workforce and families, and our state and local economies,” said Lori Herndon, president and CEO of AtlantiCare. “The Atlantic City gaming industry is a cornerstone of the entire South Jersey economy, and reopening it safely at the right time, along with the rest of our shore and regional businesses, must be our shared priority.”

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Contact: 609-272-7222

ddanzis@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDanzis

Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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