Atlantic City casinos find creative ways to work around reopening restrictions

Loyal Hard Rock Hotel and Casino guest Carlene Acello feels safe at the casino, and that’s why she’s been back every week since it reopened on July 2. She says she missed it during the 108 days it was closed.

Gov. Phil Murphy gave the go ahead for casinos in Atlantic City to operate at 25% capacity on the gaming floor but with no indoor food, alcohol or smoking.

Hard Rock Atlantic City president Joe Lupo says it’s definitely hurt their bottom line.

“We need more people to take care of those individuals because we’ve had to space them out. So instead of six people at a blackjack table, we only have three or four. So yeah, it’s been more costly, but that’s the mandate we’re working under and we’ve tried to remain positive,” Lupo said.

New numbers show most casinos took a hit this July compared to the same time last year.

“We obviously have no entertainment, that drove a lot of volume. We have no conventions, that drove a lot of volume,” Lupo said. “That segment who’s over 60, we’re obviously seeing a bigger decrease than the segment from 21 to 49. But we’ve been down, as all the properties were down, 10 to 25% sometimes more depending on the activity.”

Ocean Casino Resort CEO Terry Glebocki says they were the only property in Atlantic City that saw an uptick.

“We were actually up 23% year over year,” she said.

She says one of the benefits they have is they’re not part of a national chain so all decisions are made locally.

“We understand what our guests want, we listen to them and I believe we delivered on those promises,” Glebocki said.

Hard Rock’s president says even though their numbers were down, their casino was still number one in the market in July in terms of casino revenue. He attributes it to the safety protocols they’ve put in place, from thermal imaging to an increase in cleaning staff.

“We’ve made them more visible and I think that’s to ensure that people understand and feel more safe,” Lupo said.

To compensate for the losses on dining and gaming indoors, both casinos had to get creative. Hard Rock moved the VIP lounge for high rollers to a tent outside that overlooks the water.

“We’ve been able to bring back about 60% of our employee base, so not everyone. We can’t fill our hotels because we can’t put as many people in our hotel elevators, nor do we have enough seating outside to supplement all those guests if we did fill our hotel rooms,” Lupo said. “We’d love to employee more if we can open things up.”

At Ocean, a fifth floor outdoor parking garage was made into a VIP lounge for top players. They’ve also turned the shut down nightclub’s outdoor space into an outdoor grill.

“It’s a good way for everyone to get out and enjoy, and Ocean is a great property,” said casino guest Daniel Rodin.

Casinos are hoping indoor dining opens up before the weather changes or their creative changes to stay afloat may suffer.