ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (WPVI) -- For the first time in 108 days, slot machines beeped, dice tumbled and cards were dealt at Atlantic City's casinos as several reopened Thursday amid a coronavirus pandemic.
Guests were happy to be inside, but so were thousands of employees. Others are still waiting, as casinos are operating under reduced capacity.
"Walking around this morning, lots of hugs, people really glad to be back," said Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City President Joe Lupo. "It feels great to open. It's unusual circumstances, but we're just happy to be able to bring some people back to work."
Hard Rock Atlantic City has 3,600 employees, around 2,200 have been brought back. Nine Atlantic City casinos had been shut down for 15 weeks, leaving thousands out of work.
Chairman of Hard Rock International and CEO of Seminole Gaming Jim Allen said, "Certainly back in March when COVID really became an issue, not just here in NJ, but around the world, we certainly went to a very limited staff, less than probably 200 people."
This week, eight of the casinos are reopening with safety measures in place, including Hard Rock, with no indoor dining, no drinking and no smoking allowed.
The casino floors are capped at 25% capacity. Hard Rock Hotel is capped at 75%, which prompts the question of profitability.
"We wanted to get our employees back to work so they would have the opportunity to start putting a paycheck in their household, so for me there wasn't a yield that we weren't going to do that," Allen told 6abc.
This is the longest Atlantic City has gone without operational casinos since legal gambling began in 1978.
Five of the nine casinos - Hard Rock, Ocean, Resorts, Tropicana and Golden Nugget - opened their doors Thursday morning.
Three others, Caesars, Bally's and Harrah's, will reopen Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.