Atlantic City Looks to 2021 With High Hopes As the Virus Rages On

Land-based casinos took a big hit with the complete lockdown which led to strict regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic. Though casinos have remained open since July last year in Atlantic City, they are less likely to bounce back to their former glory if the pandemic is not brought under control.

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Seaside gambling resorts face stiff competition from casinos in other states and other challenges like financial concerns which have been amplified due to reduced patronage due to the virus.

While these concerns continue to grow, they should completely vanish once the authorities are able to devise effective ways of bringing the virus under control and ending the strict restrictions on casino operations.

Casino operators are increasingly optimistic with the release of successful vaccines which have shown great promise in halting the continuous rise. Of course, it may take some months for most people in Atlantic City to receive a shot, there are high hopes for the summer which is the time most resorts make most of their money.

Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City is looking forward to a successful summer launch.

“People want to get out, and things will improve,” he said. “We’re working very hard at staying positive; you have to take that approach to keep morale up.”

“I think the pent-up demand is going to be explosive,” added Bob McDevitt, president of the main casino workers union here. “It’s going to be a busy summer; I truly believe that. It’s one thing to sit at home in your underwear and gamble on your phone, and quite another to come to a casino resort in person, go to dinner, see a show. Kiss is going to be playing here in August; you can’t do that on your phone.”

For other executives, it is all about remaining hopeful that the vaccine would roll out quickly

“We’re guardedly optimistic,” said Steve Callender, a Caesars Entertainment executive and president of the Casino Association of New Jersey. “It’s going to take a couple of months for the vaccine to be widely distributed. But there is incredible pent-up demand. I’m constantly getting calls, emails and texts from people that haven’t come back yet who are just waiting until they can get vaccinated.”

The virus outbreak had forced Atlantic City’s nine land-based casinos to close their doors in mid-March until early July. However, strict restrictions prevent casinos from operating in full capacity with a limit of 25% attendance and the prohibition on food and drinks. Getting these restrictions lifted would require a miracle in the form of a vaccine.

As revenue and profits plunge even further, major casinos remain silent on plans to expand. However, some casinos do have some plans in the works preparing them for a time when business levels would improve.

“It’s been the most challenging year we all can remember,” Lupo said. “The fall of 2008 and the recession was difficult, as well. But this has been difficult with not knowing. It’s going to be a very dark next four months.”

While many executives remain skeptical, some already have favorable predictions about Atlantic City in 2021

“I see the Borgata back to life, with our lounges open, all the food and beverage options open,” said Melonie Johnson, president of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. “I see concerts and conventions and a sense of life again in Atlantic City. Humans are social people; we need to be entertained. I look forward to something as simple as being able to walk up and give someone a hug.”

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