While news is running rampant that Thanksgiving should be canceled in the U.S. this year because of COVID-19, there is at least one location that will buck the trend. Atlantic City is telling gamblers to put on their best gambling clothes and head to the city’s casinos, as these won’t be closing. However, they shouldn’t expect to find turkey with all the trimmings in the venues’ restaurants.
Casinos in several states have either now closed, or will be closing this week, temporarily because of a spike in positive COVID-19 cases in their respective states. Even New Jersey has seen an increase recently; however, Governor Phil Murphy doesn’t believe that shutting down Atlantic City’s gambling scene is warranted. In many ways, his position on keeping casinos open makes a lot of sense.
According to recent data, casinos rank 44 on the list of places where people are most likely to catch the novel coronavirus. By not closing down Atlantic City, Murphy is giving individuals a potentially safe place to go and is keeping them from possibly participating in a large community gathering where the spread of COVID-19 has been shown to be a problem. In addition, casinos have implemented health measures to help control the virus.
Murphy asserts, “We believe, based on the evidence that we have, that they’ve been able to responsibly manage their casino floors. Whether it’s through personal protective equipment, dividers, capacity management, temperature checks, review of symptoms checks with people who go onto the floor, there is not any evidence … that there is a big outbreak coming from participating on the floor.”
It isn’t clear if Murphy, or the casinos, will allow BYOT (Bring Your Own Turkey) for Thanksgiving. The governor has re-instituted a ban on indoor dining at all bars and restaurants after 10 PM, and no alcohol will be served from that time until after 5 AM the next morning. Still, Atlantic City can’t survive much longer if casinos are forced to close again and, now, the venues will have an added boost that should lead to greater traffic.
Other casinos around New Jersey are in almost full lockdown mode. Rivers Casino in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is close to Atlantic City (about an hour away), is closing this Friday due to an order coming down from the City of Philadelphia. The casino will remain closed through the end of the year. Elsewhere, casinos in Detroit, Michigan are now closed, and the four commercial casinos in upstate New York are halting operations daily at 10 PM. Illinois casinos are also shutting down this Friday, but travelers in the state determined to get away for Thanksgiving can make the 14-hour trip, or hop on a flight, if they can find one, to Atlantic City.