CORONAVIRUS

Vacationers expressing disappointment, relief over casino closings

Riverside, Rhythm City close until next month

Gamblers play the slot machines at Riverside Casino. As of Monday, casinos in at least 15 states had shut down due to th
Gamblers play the slot machines at Riverside Casino. As of Monday, casinos in at least 15 states had shut down due to the coronavirus. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Gamblers and vacationers who had planned to visit U.S. casinos expressed a mixture of disappointment and relief over a wave of closings in at least 15 states as officials worked on slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some said they still plan to visit casinos.

In Iowa, Riverside Casino and Golf Resort in Riverside, Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood and Golf Resort, and Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport — all owned by Elite Casino Resorts in Dallas — said on Monday they would close until the end of the month.

But many casinos, where hundreds or even thousands of people touch the same slot machines and gambling chips, remain open. The casinos that remain open say they are stepping up cleaning and sanitization efforts.

Sherry Giordano, an Atlantic City casino regular from Willow Grove, Penn., has a trip booked for this weekend that will be canceled.

But she would have been hesitant to go even if the casinos had been open, because of her husband’s health history that could make him more susceptible to the virus.

“I’m less concerned with my own safety, and I think a lot of people have a tendency to think that way, which is both kind of stupid and selfish because we can endanger others,” she said.

“Atlantic City is very important to me and my husband,” she said. “But I think it’s the right thing to do. I would rather err (on the side of) caution rather than jeopardize a life.”

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The shutdowns could be a boon to casinos in states where internet gambling is legal, including New Jersey, where online gambling revenue has been soaring for years.

On Monday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the closure of Atlantic City’s nine casinos as of 8 p.m., after days of allowing them to remain open.

The governors of New York and Connecticut did likewise, also including bars, restaurants and movie theaters.

It will be the fifth time that Atlantic City’s casinos have shut down since gambling began here in 1978. Only hurricanes and a government shutdown have caused such closures before.

As of Monday, casino closures also had been implemented or announced in Maryland, Nevada, Michigan, New Mexico, California, Alabama, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York.

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