Atlantic City casinos and sportsbooks throughout the state are rejoicing Wednesday after getting some relief on COVID-19 restrictions for Super Bowl weekend.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said he was easing some of the restrictions.
The strict capacity limits in New Jersey for restaurants, gyms and other businesses because of the current coronavirus pandemic will increase Friday from 25% to 35%, and bars and restaurants can stay open through its regular business hours. That eliminates a previous restriction forcing those businesses to close by 10 p.m.
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Not only is this good news for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks throughout the state, but the timing couldn’t have been better with the biggest sports betting event on the calendar Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs faces the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl 55 in Tampa.
"It was a pleasant surprise from the governor right before the Super Bowl. Even putting aside the casinos, this is big for the entire food and beverage industry in the state,” said Thomas Gable, director of race and sportsbook for the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City. “No one wanted to see a scenario where businesses had to close at 10 p.m. and make everyone leave while the game was still going on.
"So while the sportsbooks would have been fine, this is a win-win for the bars, lounges and restaurants and their customers who can now enjoy the game in its entirety."
Murphy, citing declining hospitalizations, a gradual decrease in new daily case numbers, lowered rate of transmission of the virus and current vaccinations on the rise as reasons why certain businesses can increase indoor capacity.
“While some of our numbers are still high,” Murphy said during his regular briefing, “we believe that we can make this expansion without leading to undue further stress on our health care system.”
While indoor dining reopened in early September, this is the first time since then that Murphy has allowed increased capacity limits. Atlantic City casinos stayed open when a second wave of the pandemic hit in November.
One drawback is that indoor seating at bars is still prohibited since “it creates the danger of close and prolonged proximity between patrons, bartenders, and servers,” Murphy said. “Let there be no mistake, all of the credit goes to the millions of you who have taken your responsibility for ending this pandemic to heart through constant social distancing, wearing your face masks and just exercising common sense.”
Casinos across the U.S. were completely shut down in March when the coronavirus pandemic struck. They started reopening several months later and started to see revenue rebound.