It is a 100 percent, stone-cold, lead pipe lock that the phrase of 2020, whenever that title is handed out, is going to be “social distancing.” There is absolutely not a doubt in my mind. I would bet my entire net worth on it, which fortunately isn’t that much right now after these last couple weeks in the stock market, so I’m not nervous about losing it all. Aside from urgent care, the emergency room, or an unlicensed, private daycare, the last place on Earth I would want to be right now is a casino. I know that’s probably a bad thing to say because of how I make a living, but damn, going somewhere where I have to touch things that shit-ass hands have touched repeatedly and where people are crowded next to each other at gaming tables and machines is just not appealing. Fortunately, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy seems to feel the same way, as he signed an executive order on Monday, forcing all Atlantic City casinos to close indefinitely to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a press release, Governor Murphy said:

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must take aggressive and direct social distancing action to curtail non-essential activities in the state. Our paramount priority is to ‘flatten the curve’ of new cases, so we do not overwhelm our health care system and overload our health care professionals who are on the frontlines of the response. My Administration continues to work closely with our communities, stakeholders, union representatives, and business leaders to ensure that we all do our part to win the fight against the novel coronavirus and emerge stronger than ever.

Of course, one might consider casino gambling an “essential” activity of New Jersey, particularly when it comes to Atlantic City. No, it’s not actually “essential,” but it does drive the economy of the boardwalk town. But even though Atlantic City will take a massive hit without locals and tourists flocking to its nine casinos, Mayor Marty Small Sr. understands the importance of the Governor’s decision.

“We understand that the casinos are the economic engine, have always been,” he said. “However, no one is exempt. This is a national pandemic. … I think Atlantic City residents’ and visitors’ safety is paramount.”

Fortunately for the state’s gaming industry, there is still online gambling. Though its numbers don’t compare to brick-and-mortar gambling, internet betting has been doing well in New Jersey, generating $52 million in revenue last month. Expect that to increase now that people are staying at home.

State lawmakers are working on legislation to help the thousands of displaced casino workers. It is one of the rare issues that has bipartisan support.

“I will continue working with Gov. Murphy, my legislative colleagues, the casino industry and the casino employees to ensure our working families stay well and can make ends meet until the casinos and other businesses reopen,” said state Senator Chris Brown.

New Jersey has been one of the states hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with 267 confirmed positive tests. Most confirmed tests have been in the northern portion of the state, closer to New York. Just a short time ago, the first positive test was confirmed in Atlantic County, the county in which Atlantic City is located.

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