The governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York announced that casinos can go to 100% capacity on May 15, while Pennsylvania casinos can do the same on May 31. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
States opening up more and more
As adult arms continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the sobering virus statistics have been looking better and better throughout most of the United States. Because of this, most states that have had strict occupancy limitations on businesses have been relaxing them as we head into the second summer of the pandemic. This includes casinos, which have been among the hardest hit financially during the pandemic, as those that don’t have online gambling rely exclusively on in-person customers.
casinos are still either required or encouraged to have measures in place to maintain social distancing
A number of states have actually permitted casinos to operate at 100% capacity for a while now, but there is a caveat. Even in states with no capacity restrictions, casinos are still either required or encouraged to have measures in place to maintain social distancing. Thus, there is an artificial capacity restriction, provided the casinos are sticking to the plan.
Some of the big boys are about to start ramping it up this month, though, so let’s take a look.
Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York
The governors of the tri-state area, which was the hardest-hit region in the US in the early weeks of the pandemic, have been working together to get through this difficult year-plus. Last Monday, they jointly announced that most capacity restrictions will be lifted on most industries, including gaming, on May 19.
“The tide is turning against COVID-19 in New York,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “and thanks to our increasing vaccination rates, as well as our successful, data-based regional approach, we’re able to take more steps to reopen our economy, help businesses and workers, and keep moving towards returning to normal.”
Casinos still must abide by social distancing regulations, so, as mentioned, capacities may still be limited to some extent.
get vaccinated “so we can continue fighting back against this virus”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy encouraged people to get vaccinated “so we can continue fighting back against this virus.”
In Connecticut, the Mohegan Sun casino is ramping up its hiring in anticipation of May 19, offering $2,000 bonuses for new cook hires and $500 for housekeepers. The casino resort has 4,800 total employees, which includes full-time, part-time, and on-call, down significantly from the 7,500 employees it had before the pandemic.
Pennsylvania about to go for it
This past Tuesday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that virtually all COVID-19 mitigation requirements will be lifted on Memorial Day, May 31. The only measure still in place will be the indoor and outdoor mask mandate. And that will be eliminated once 70% of Pennsylvanians 18 and over are fully vaccinated, which means two shots for those getting the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and one shot for Johnson & Johnson.
Municipalities, however, can still impose their own restrictions. Philadelphia has not said what it plans on doing, prompting some city council members to publicly scold Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley for not setting a reopening date. Rivers Casino Philadelphia and Live! Casino Philadelphia are subject to the city health department’s rules.
Pennsylvania casinos, like most others around the country, originally closed in mid-March. The first two to reopen were The Meadows and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, which did so on June 9. All of the state’s casinos were open by July 17. They shut down again on December 12 and reopened shortly after New Year’s.
Nevada casinos vary by location
It is a mixed bag right now in Nevada, but expect more casinos to begin jumping to full capacity in the coming weeks. In Clark County, home of Las Vegas, casinos are restricted to 80% of capacity. Washoe County casinos, where Reno is located, are limited to 50% capacity. Everywhere else can go full bore.
In Clark County, though, casinos can begin operating at 100% capacity once 80% of their staff get their vaccinations. Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Resort, both Wynn Resorts properties, were the first on the Las Vegas Strip to get Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to go to full capacity early this month after a concerted vaccination effort. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas made it a trio shortly thereafter.
Governor Steve Sisolak hopes that all casinos can go to 100% capacity by June 1.