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Health, safety reign supreme across Caesars empire in Atlantic City

Health, safety reign supreme across Caesars empire in Atlantic City

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ATLANTIC CITY — With less than 24 hours to go before Seven Stars Total Rewards members arrive, the team at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City was still going through last-minute preparations to ensure the health and safety of guests and employees.

Plastic glass dividers were being installed at table games, hotel rooms were being sanitized and disinfected, signage was being placed around the property to inform guests of new guidelines and employees were being trained on protocols.

But, overall, Harrah’s and its two sister properties — Bally’s Atlantic City and Caesars Atlantic City — are ready to resume business Thursday and welcome back the general public Friday.

“We’re very comfortable and confident that when people come, they will feel safe and secure and have a good time, which is what gaming is all about,” said Ronald Baumann, regional president of Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s three Atlantic City casinos.

On Monday, the state Division of Gaming Enforcement released a report on new health and safety protocols that all casinos must adhere to. The plan was developed by the Casino Association of New Jersey in partnership with AtlantiCare and casino workers union Unite Here Local 54.

But Local 54, which represents nearly 10,000 members, including housekeepers, custodial workers and restaurant employees, said the plan does not go far enough.

Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54, said Wednesday the approved health and safety plans “fall short in providing the protections that guest and workers need to provide a safe environment,” while also criticizing the decision by Gov. Phil Murphy to ban indoor dining since it impacts a significant portion of the union’s 10,000 members.

The Atlantic City casino industry was given 10 days to restart its gaming and hospitality operations after being closed for nearly four months due to the coronavirus.

The state imposed a 25% capacity on guests inside the casinos and mandated that everyone on property wear a mask. Restrictions were tacked on early this week, including a ban on indoor dining, alcoholic beverage service and smoking.

“We had to rush a little bit, but we figured it out,” Baumann said of the small window of time casinos had to adapt. “The challenge was, we didn’t know all the rules.”

Some of the actions casinos must take include the mandatory installation of plastic glass dividers at all table games by July 16, maintaining at least one vacant position between players at table games and between slot machines, providing guests with information about COVID-19 and house rules, and screenings that include a list of questions and a temperature scan.

Nightclubs, buffets and large venues will remain closed until larger group gatherings are permitted.

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and senior vice president of Eastern regional operations for Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts, said the industry is prepared to move forward despite the challenges ahead.

“This is a critical moment for our industry,” Callendar said in a statement Tuesday. “Atlantic City has seen strong gains in recent years, which were abruptly halted because of this global health and economic crisis. We know rebuilding from this crisis won’t be easy, but we are committed to helping Atlantic City and New Jersey recover and continue the revitalization of this world-class resort destination.”

McDevitt, however, still has concerns for employees: “Our union has faced many challenges over the years here in Atlantic City, and the one common factor every time has been that workers disproportionately bear the brunt. This must stop — the working men and women of the gaming industry deserve better.”

The union is also concerned about a lapse in health insurance benefits for workers, which expired June 30.

Five casinos — Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, Ocean Casino Resort, Resorts Casino Hotel and Tropicana — will reopen to the general public Thursday. Bally’s, Caesars and Harrah’s will permit Seven Stars members to return Thursday before opening to the public Friday.

Golden Nugget and Hard Rock will open at 6 a.m. Thursday, while Ocean, Resorts and Tropicana will open at 8 a.m. The Caesars properties will open at 10 a.m. Friday.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa elected to remain closed indefinitely following Murphy’s ban on indoor dining.

The city’s nine casinos have been closed since March 16. The 107-day shutdown is the longest stretch Atlantic City has gone without casinos since gaming was introduced in 1978.

Contact: 609-272-7222

ddanzis@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressDanzis

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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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