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Atlantic City bans booze

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Atlantic City tried Prohibition once before. It worked so well that Nucky Johnson, the legendary politician and racketeer, built a Boardwalk empire immortalized on HBO nearly a century later.

It also tried banning smoking, too. That lasted for 20 days as smokers stayed away, sending casino revenue plummeting.

But New Jersey will ban both, again, when Atlantic City’s nine casinos reopen after more than three months of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

The late-night announcements from Gov. Phil Murphy landed like a one-two punch on Atlantic City’s casino industry, already reeling from lost revenue during the pandemic, and making plans to creak back to life at the state-mandated 25% of normal capacity.

“No booze? No one’s coming,” said Bob McDevitt, president of a casino employees union. “I really don’t even think they should open.”

Many casinos had planned to reopen Thursday, the first day the state will let them. But that was before they knew they could not let their customers smoke, drink alcohol or anything else.

The Borgata almost immediately folded what it saw as a losing hand.

On Tuesday, casino executives tried to decide whether it made sense to reopen at all.

By mid-afternoon, all except the Borgata announced plans to reopen in the coming days. Resorts, Tropicana, Ocean, Golden Nugget and Hard Rock all said they will reopen Thursday. Harrah’s, Caesars and Bally’s will reopen Friday.

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