There have been 251 reported positive COVID-19 cases among Atlantic City casino workers since reopening in early July, with more than 60% of those cases occurring in October. Pennsylvania casinos have reported 108 coronavirus cases from among more than 16,000 casino workers statewide since casinos began to reopen in early June. In both jurisdictions, they represent around 1% of the entire casino workforce.
In Atlantic City, 172 COVID-19 cases from employees who work directly for a casino hotel — including executives, housekeepers, bell hops, security personnel, kitchen workers, administrative staff, slot attendants and dealers — have been reported to state gaming regulators, according to official data obtained by The Press of Atlantic City. Another 79 cases were reported from those who work at the casinos’ various restaurants and bars. The numbers reflect self-reported cases by Atlantic City casino operators to the state Division of Gaming Enforcement between July 2 and Oct. 26.
The total number of positive cases represents slightly more than 1% of the entire Atlantic City casino workforce, based on September’s employment data. Casino executives and industry experts said the relatively low number of cases among employees, which is spread out over more than three months’ time, indicates the health and safety policies implemented as part of the reopening plan are working as intended.
The Casino Association of New Jersey and AtlantiCare, in partnership with Unite Here Local 54 and state health and gaming officials, developed a reopening plan that outlined specific actions and procedures designed to make the properties as safe as possible. Mandatory masks for everyone on a property, routine employee temperature screenings, polycarbonate barriers between table game players and spaced out slot machines were among the enacted policies.
“Our strict safety protocols, regulatory oversight, security measures, cleaning personnel, masks, social distancing efforts and surveillance are working,” said Steve Callender, president of the CANJ and regional president of Caesars Entertainment Inc. “These are unprecedented times, which is why the industry has taken extraordinary measures to safely welcome back thousands of hardworking employees and valued guests, while also helping to minimize the exposure of Atlantic City casino property guests, our employees, and our local community to the COVID-19 virus.”
Just under 61% of all the positive cases in Atlantic City’s casinos were in October, a rise that coincides with statewide increases. Seventy-one of the 81 total positive cases reported in October have been from employees who work in either casino restaurants or bars. Indoor dining — at 25% capacity — and beverage service on casino floors was allowed to resume in early September.
The governor has recently suggested that restrictive actions could be forthcoming for businesses in New Jersey if the trend of rising cases continues. “As we see a rise in cases across New Jersey, we 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 to protect our employees, vendors, tenants and guests,” Callender said. “We remain dedicated to complying with, or exceeding, local or state-imposed mandates, restrictions and occupancy limits to try to maintain a healthy environment.”
Figures released late Thursday by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board show less than 1% of casino employees have tested positive for the virus since the licensed gaming halls first began to reopen in early June, with 108 cases from among more than 16,000 casino workers in the state. The state reported 28 cases at Rivers Pittsburgh casino and 25 cases at Parx in Bensalem.
Since reopening 18 weeks ago, more than 1.4 million people have visited Parx, said Carrie Nork Minelli, director of advertising and public relations for the company, as reported by Bucks County Courier Times. None of 25 workers who tested positive for the virus required hospitalization, Minelli said.
"We currently have more than 1,900 people working at Parx," Minelli added. "As such over a four-month period our positive case rate is approximately 1.3% which we believe is below the state and Bucks County average."
Rivers Pittsburgh employs 1,360. With 28 cases, just 2% tested positive, according to state records. "We’re extremely grateful to Rivers Casino’s Team Members in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for their relentless dedication to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace," said casino spokesman Jack Horner. "Despite operating in the two Pennsylvania counties with the highest population densities, cases among Rivers Casino Team Members remain low."
While low, cases among casino workers statewide climbed from 14 in September to 44 in October, according to the state. The gaming control board said it did not have records showing the type of job held by the workers who tested positive, and it is not known where the workers were exposed to the virus.