Atlantic City casinos cleared to resume smoking, drinking on gaming floor

Atlantic City casino gamblers will be able to consume alcohol and smoke on the gaming floor this Labor Day weekend, a change that will be welcomed by some customers and loathed by others.

On Tuesday, the office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 183, which states that food and beverage operations in the state can resume indoor service at 25% capacity starting Friday (4) at 6am, subject to existing health and safety guidelines.

Casinos, which have been operating at 25% capacity since they were allowed to reopen on July 2 following their nearly four-month COVID-19 closure, will be allowed to serve drinks to customers on the gaming floor. However, hooch must be ordered through a server and quaffing customers must remain seated while consuming the bevvy of their choice.

The news comes just days after Gov. Murphy signed legislation to permanently allow patrons within the Atlantic City Tourism District – including areas of the beach and boardwalk – to consume alcohol from open containers.

Temporary open container permission was granted in June, but this was supposed to be rescinded when the indoor drinking rules were relaxed. However, the state ultimately concluded that its guests and businesses could use all the stimulus they could get.

EO 183 will also permit gamblers to resume smoking on the gaming floor, a relief for smokers who had to periodically duck outside to satisfy their cravings but a disappointment for non-smoking gamblers who thought the temporary curbs imposed in AC and other casino states might prove permanent.

Casinos will have the option of maintaining their smoking bans, which could result in some venues branding themselves as smoke-free while others feature black lungs on their billboards.

EO 183 will also allow the operation of β€œindoor performance-based entertainment centers,” subject to the 25% capacity limit – with a hard cap of 150 non-staff guests in any single venue – as well as health & safety protocols. It remains to be seen whether casinos will deem it feasible to reopen any of their performance venues, given that the cost of producing these performances would likely not be covered by a one-quarter full venue.

AC casinos are coming off a truly dire quarter, during which the Golden Nugget was the only land-based operator to post an operating profit, and even that was largely based on the Nugget’s online casino success.