To bet or not to bet? Casinos, gamblers weigh virus concerns

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this June 20, 2019 file photo, a roulette dealer waits for bets to be placed at the Hard Rock casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Hard Rock is canceling live entertainment at all its U.S. properties for 30 days in response to the coronavirus outbreak, one of many steps casinos around the country are taking in response to the outbreak. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Gamblers and vacationers who had planned to visit U.S. casinos expressed a mixture of disappointment and relief over a wave of closings in at least 15 states as officials worked on slowing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some said they still plan to visit casinos.

Many casinos, where hundreds or even thousands of people touch the same slot machines and gambling chips, remain open. The casinos that remain open say they are stepping up cleaning and sanitization efforts.

Sherry Giordano, an Atlantic City casino regular from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, has a trip booked for this weekend that will be canceled. But she would have been hesitant to go even if the casinos had been open, because of her husband's health history that could make him more susceptible to the virus.

“I’m less concerned with my own safety, and I think a lot of people have a tendency to think that way, which is both kind of stupid and selfish because we can endanger others,” she said. “I not only love gambling, I love meeting people and escaping reality.

“Atlantic City is very important to me and my husband,” she said. "But I think it's the right thing to do. I would rather err (on the side of) caution rather than jeopardize a life.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Tom Brown, of Edison, New Jersey, canceled a Las Vegas trip last week, and then canceled the rebooked trip for late March that would have replaced the first one. He acted because of concerns over the potential for the virus to sicken his wife, who as a cancer patient undergoing infusion therapy has low resistance.