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New Jersey Casinos, Indoor Dining Allowed To Reopen July 2 But Gov. Murphy Won't 'Tolerate Knuckleheads'

TRENTON (CBS) -- New Jersey casinos and indoor dining can reopen with limited capacity just in time for Fourth of July weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday morning. Drastic reductions in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to allow New Jersey to move into the latter stage of phase two reopenings.

Casinos and restaurants with indoor dining have been given the green light to open to the public on Thursday, July 2.

Both will be limited to operating at 25% capacity.

New Jersey officials, in conjunction with health experts, are working to solidify safety measures but the governor didn't mince words on how serious these new policies will be taken.

"You should also expect capacity limits to ensure social distancing while inside the casinos, among other measures," he said. "If any visitor refuses to comply with these simple safeguards, you will be escorted out of the casino. We are not going to tolerate any knuckleheads."

Atlantic City's Hard Rock Hotel & Casino posted a welcome back message to guests on Twitter.

"The wait is finally over! We are excited to announce that we will be reopening on July, 2," Hard Rock tweeted.

During a press conference Monday, Murphy also announced that he is increasing the limits on gatherings. Outdoor gatherings may now increase from 100 to 250 people and indoor gatherings are now limited to 25% of capacity.

However, that number cannot exceed 100.

The Hard Rock recently released its safety measures in hopes of easing visitors' concerns. Glass barriers have been installed at gambling tables, automating thermal cameras will take guests' temperatures, mask usage is required and empty seats will be maintained between slot machines.

Security will also be enforcing social distancing throughout the casino. Officials with the institute of gaming and tourism at Stockton University say the timing of casino reopenings couldn't be better.

"The casinos the last two years made 30% of their revenue in the third quarter. It was really important for them to reopen before July 4," Jane Bokunewicz said.

Gov. Murphy says if anything about the positive track of reopening New Jersey changes and there's a significant rise in coronavirus cases, the state will hit pause on the reopening phase.

CBS3's Natasha Brown and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.

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