The Atlantic City evacuation order was lifted and the resort’s 12 casinos were given the OK to reopen as of 10 a.m. today, according to a news release from Gov. Chris Christie's office.
South Jersey Transportation Authority spokesman Kevin Rehmann said crews were in the process of removing blockades to the Atlantic City Expressway to allow people to return to Atlantic City.
An order signed by Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck allows the casinos to restart gambling activity immediately. Investigators and personnel have been assigned to each property to ensure that the properties comply with procedures.
Division spokeswoman Lisa Spengler said the casinos must get their employees in place before they can officially reopen. Exactly how long that will take was not immediately clear.
“The division is ready,” Spengler said. “We’re waiting. As soon as they get their people in, they can go.”
Tom Ballance, president and chief operating officer of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, confirmed that the industry received the go-ahead to resume operations, but added that “we are working to understand what it will take to get open.”
“We have a lot to do, so it will be a few hours,” Ballance said of making plans for reopening Borgata.
Casinos were not aware they would be allowed to reopen at 10 a.m. until the governor made his announcement, Casino Association of New Jersey President Tony Rodio said.
"We can't open until we get minimum staffing in, and we're all scrambling," said Rodio, president and CEO of Tropicana. "I can only speak for Tropicana, but it's been a nightmare getting employees into the city."
“We are happy to hear Atlantic City is reopening and are looking forward to getting back to business as usual,” said Courtney Birmingham, a spokeswoman for Resorts Casino Hotel. “At this time, we do not have a definite opening time as we need to continue the opening process in coordination with governmental officials DGE and work on getting our team members into the building in an organized fashion."
The Atlantic Club Casino Hotel said it would take this weekend to prepare to reopen. Although other casinos were rushing to reopen today, the Atlantic Club announced it plans to resume all gambling and hotel operations at 10 a.m. Monday.
Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations for Borgata, said the property expects to reopen at 4 p.m. Lupo noted that the casino business likely will slowly ramp up to normal levels because residents are still trying to recover from the hurricane’s fury.
“There are a lot of people who are still without power. More importantly, they are trying to take care of their homes at the shore.”
“We would like to once again acknowledge the tremendous efforts of both our state and local emergency management authorities for guiding our industry and the City of Atlantic City as safely as possible through this historical weather event,” stated Michael Frawley, the Atlantic Club’s chief operating officer. “We appreciate all the efforts of our Atlantic Club team and welcome patrons back to Atlantic City.”
City officials also were caught by surprise. Business Administrator Ron Cash said they are meeting now about the matter.
Christie's spokesman Kevin Roberts did not immediately respond to questions about why Christie didn't notify casinos or the local government before making his decision public.
Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford had said this morning he will make an announcement at noon today about plans the resort has to reopen - five days after it was shut down by mandatory evacuation orders for Hurricane Sandy.
Langford submitted a request Thursday night to Gov. Chris Christie's office to lift the travel ban in place since 4 p.m. Sunday. He and other city officials did that after surveying the city at night to make sure enough street and traffic lights had started working again to make roads safe.
The Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authorities lifted its boil water advisory around 10 p.m. Thursday, clearing up another utilities issue that caused concern about letting residents, workers and visitors back into town.
Casino workers were allowed through police checkpoints outside the city starting at midnight. Since 4 p.m. Sunday, entry has been limited mainly to first responders, elected officials, government and hospital workers and journalists, and their families, in some cases. To skirt those blockades, residents got creative, by boating back and walking in along Route 40.