After more than half a year closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown, Atlantic City’s once vaunted poker scene has been cruelly silent. Even since the casinos were reopened in July, the poker rooms have remained closed due to an abundance of caution regarding the virus. That situation will change this week as, on Wednesday, the Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa will reopen the poker room.
30 Tables, With Precautions
The Borgata Poker Room is not going to be holding back when they reopen, but they will still have some safeguards in place for their players. 30 tables will be opened to the public, socially distanced from each other per CDC guidelines. There will also be polycarbonate barriers on the tables, plentiful hand sanitizer dispensers around the room and players and staff will have to wear masks in all public areas. For now, tables will be seven-handed and there will also be no “railbirds” allowed to watch the action in the Borgata Poker Room.
“We are happy to welcome back our loyal players as we reopen Atlantic City’s market-leading East Coast poker destination,” said Melonie Johnson, President & Chief Operating Officer of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, during the announcement of the reopening. “We have made some changes to enhance our guest’s experience and are excited to reintroduce live poker and the Borgata Poker brand more safely.”
The Borgata is the first casino in Atlantic City to take the step of reopening its poker room for customers. It normally would sit 85 tables of nine handed poker, and it is twice the size of any poker room on the Boardwalk. But even with the 30-table maximum, it would still be the biggest operation in the live poker industry in New Jersey.
Live Poker Reopening Comes as Online Poker Stalls
The reopening of poker on the Atlantic City scene will be a way to offset the drops in online poker in the state. Since the shutdown occurred in March, New Jersey’s online poker industry has been seeing sizeable increases. But, as the summer has worn on, those numbers have been trending downward.
In April, New Jersey set a record in online poker revenues by bringing in over $5.1 million in “win” from three operations – Resorts AC/PokerStars, Caesars/888 and Borgata/partypoker. They dropped a bit in May, only bringing in around $4.5 million, but the numbers were still much better than they had been earlier in the year. Since May, however, the numbers have been dropping.
Although July saw an increase to over $4.8 million in revenues due to the 2020 online WSOP on the Caesars/888 platform, August saw a sizeable drop in play. For the month of August, slightly more than $3 million in revenues was taken in, a precipitous 40% drop in comparison with July. That decline continued in September as only about $2.5 million in revenues was pulled in by the three casinos in operation.
The opening of the Borgata Poker Room can only help the bottom line for poker within the company. Having even the 30 tables in action will add to the revenues of the organization and it will show that the Atlantic City scene is slowly making its way back. Other rooms might have to reopen on the Boardwalk first, however, before customers feel completely comfortable making their ways back to the casino.