The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa swung open its doors to the public Sunday for the first time since March, becoming the last of Atlantic City’s nine casinos to reopen.
Borgata, the city’s casino market leader and one of its largest employers, put its reopening plans on hold in late June when Gov. Phil Murphy announced that though casinos were permitted to reopen in early July, indoor eating, drinking and smoking would be prohibited.
The casino’s parent company said in a statement at the time that its guests “expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed.” Borgata faced a challenge in that it isn’t located on the Boardwalk and so had fewer outdoor dining options than some of its competitors.
But over the last several weeks, the casino developed a reopening plan sans indoor dining and drinking and created new outdoor dining establishments and spaces for guests to eat takeout food from the indoor eateries that reopened. On Sunday, eating and drinking options included a beer garden and food trucks, spaces poolside and under a large tent to eat takeout, as well as hotel room service.
Borgata spokesperson Liza Costandino said the leadership team felt comfortable reopening Sunday after a soft opening Thursday to guests on an invite-only basis. The venue installed hand-washing stations and clear partitions to protect those working the table games, and also marked off every other slot machine to allow for physical distance between players. Every seat at the tables is cleaned after each use.
Murphy’s administration has restricted casinos to operate at 25% capacity. Patrons and employees are subject to temperature checks and must wear masks at all times.
Costandino said the reopening that was phased over several days was intended as a way to cut down on the potential for crowds. She said although the casino technically opened Sunday morning at 10, some guests were allowed in early to prevent a line from forming.
“Our goal is certainly to avoid crowds,” she said. “It’s our job to maintain social distance among both guests and employees.”
Borgata typically employs 5,000 to 6,000 people. Costandino said the resort isn’t disclosing how many of its employees have been brought back to work, but she said it isn’t the entire workforce.
Shutdown orders put into place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus presented a massive economic challenge for the casino industry in Atlantic City, which also drives millions to the state in tax revenue.
Total gaming revenue dropped by nearly 70% in April and May, according to state figures, even though internet gaming revenue increased compared with the same time period last year. In May 2019, total gaming revenue in New Jersey was more than $276 million. This May, it was less than $100 million.
Borgata is navigating the pandemic and the economic downturn with new leadership. New president and COO Melonie Johnson, who previously worked at the resort’s parent company, took over at the end of May.