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New Jersey casinos face dining curfew amid COVID spike

New Jersey has implemented a 10 p.m. curfew on all indoor dining options, including those located inside Atlantic City’s nine casinos.

A mandate from Gov. Phil Murphy went into effect Thursday making food or drink unavailable to anyone inside a casino between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

“The last thing I want to do, or any of us wants to do, is shut our economy back down. And thankfully we are not at that point,” Murphy said Monday. “We are acting with more precision based actions based on what we are seeing on the ground.”

Caesars Entertainment Inc., MGM Resorts International, Landry’s — which operates the Golden Nugget brand — and Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment — which will run Virgin Hotels Las Vegas’ casino once it opens next year — all operate Atlantic City casinos.

Fighting the spread of COVID-19

The dining curfew comes as New Jersey experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases, much like the rest of the country. On Thursday, the New Jersey Department of Health reported a daily positivity rate of 12.02 percent, with nearly 267,000 total cases.

According to the Press of Atlantic City, there have been 251 positive cases of the novel coronavirus reported among casino workers since properties reopened in July. More than 60 percent occurred in October.

While Gov. Murphy’s new restrictions hinder food and beverage sales, the state’s casinos will still be allowed to keep their casino floors operating through the night. Other gaming markets can’t say the same; earlier this month, Massachusetts ordered its three casinos to close nightly at 9:30 p.m., prompting layoffs.

Compliance with new orders

Steve Callender, president of the Casino Association of New Jersey, said in a Monday statement that the industry has taken “extraordinary measures” to welcome back employees and guests, and it will continue to follow state-imposed mandates, restrictions and occupancy limitations.

“As we see a rise in cases across New Jersey, we are focused on the health and safety of our employees, guests and fellow residents and will continue to work with AtlantiCare, our regional healthcare provider, as well as local and state officials, to refine and update our protocols as local and state mandates evolve,” he said.

Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts, which operates the 2,767-room Borgata in Atlantic City, said in a statement that it will comply with Gov. Murphy’s executive order. The company will not have indoor dining after 10 p.m., but its grab and go options, in-room dining and outdoor dining are permitted to operate at all hours.

Food and beverage made up nearly half of non-casino revenue for MGM’s regional properties in 2019 and roughly 14 percent of their total revenue, according to an annual report.

Spokespeople for Caesars Entertainment, Golden Nugget and Mohegan Gaming did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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