ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. opened its doors to a small group of invite-only guests on Thursday.
With masks on, and seats spaced out... Borgata regulars were welcomed back to their favorite games.
"It looks a lot different. Very empty. Easy to park. It's been very pleasant," said Bob Homans, who visited for the day from Baltimore with his wife, Mary.
Casinos were allowed to open in early July at 25% capacity. But the Borgata decided to wait.
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"When we got the executive order that we couldn't have indoor dining, we had to reset. Because we wanted to make sure that whatever we produce for our guests for outdoor dining, it would represent our brand," said Melonie Johnson, Borgata's new President and Chief Operating Officer.
Under the governor's orders, masks must be worn at all times, and no food or drink can be served inside, leaving casinos to come up with some creative options for guests.
Borgata now has hand washing stations on the casino floor, and plastic dividers between each player and the dealer at table games.
As workers get settled into a new routine, recent unemployment numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor show New Jersey had the second highest unemployment rate for the month of June, and an increase from May. Employees we with spoke with at the Borgata say they are elated to be back.
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"I was so excited to finally get the call. Not just for me but then to finally make the phone calls for my staff," said Jennifer Aarons, Director of Recreation Services. She runs the pools and other amenities at the Borgata, and had her work cut out for her. Because food isn't allowed to be served inside, poolside dining became crucial, along with the addition of food and beverage trucks just outside the casino.
"There's several options just in this area that people can use to enjoy," said Aarons. "They can sit down and relax, enjoy the pool, have some food and beverage and some great sunshine."
Borgata management is also hoping sports fans will still place their bets at the sports book. You can watch the game on the big screen inside, but no food or drink. "Major League Baseball is opening and we're a week out from the NBA and the NHL. But it's still going to be a little bit different when you can't walk into a filled to capacity sports book and sit there and watch in a community experience like you're used to in the past," said Tom Gable, Borgata's Director of Race and Sports.
For now, certain amenities like salons and spas at Borgata remain closed.
But with Borgata reopening its doors, all nine Atlantic City casinos are now operating.
Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa holds soft reopening, will open to public with restrictions on Sunday