Atlantic City poker rooms remain closed, but for how long?

Atlantic city poker rooms
Jon Sofen
Posted on: October 01, 2020 05:09 PDT

More than five months after closing due to COVID-19, Atlantic City poker rooms remain closed. When will they reopen? That answer is a bit complicated.

The casinos in New Jersey, all of which reside in Atlantic City, closed down in mid-March at the order of Gov. Phil Murphy. New Jersey has been one of the top coronavirus hot spots, with over 16,000 residents dead since the virus began spreading early in the year.

But Murphy permitted casinos to reopen the Fourth of July weekend, a much needed spark to the slumping local economy. The gambling experience in the popular tourist hotspot, however, was quite different than pre-global health pandemic.

Governor Murphy only permitted casino restaurants to serve takeout food. Smoking was banned in the casinos, gamblers must wear masks, and capacity limits were put in place. You can't smoke, eat, or drink inside an Atlantic City casino these days.

Another change from the pre-coronavirus days is poker is banned at the casinos. New Jersey residents either have to drive across the border to Pennsylvania or play poker online, and have been forced to adjust for more than five months.

Murphy's coronavirus closures still apply to live poker. In Atlantic City, there are five card rooms — Borgata, Golden Nugget, Harrah's, Tropicana, and the WSOP room at Bally's — and a total of 172 card tables. Borgata, an MGM Resorts property, boasts the largest poker room in town with 85 tables.

We're now exactly 200 days since the last poker hand was spread at an Atlantic City casino. Poker players in the area are anxiously awaiting the return of live poker without being forced to drive to Pennsylvania. And they're likely going to have to wait quite a while longer.

Will the governor ever budge?

Governor Murphy seems set on remaining in the current phase of reopening until COVID-19 is defeated or at least calms. New Jersey is currently seeing approximately 1,000 new coronavirus cases per day. That's a significant drop from April and May when the state averaged more than 3,000 daily cases. Deaths are also down, with less than 1,000 COVID-19 victims since August 14.

That's some good news for the state, and also potentially for poker players who are sitting on the sidelines waiting to get into a game. But Murphy hasn't budged on his commitment to keep the poker rooms closed despite 45 days of declining COVID-19 cases and deaths. So it's unlikely he'll change his mind any time soon.

The good news for Garden State residents is Pennsylvania has open card rooms nearby, and online poker is legal in the state.

Featured image source: Flickr