I love Atlantic City too much to disparage a casino by name. I want people to continue going to Atlantic City and enjoying all that the beautiful resort has to offer. But COVID-19 has turned the gambling experience into an absolute nightmare. We took my 87-year-old mother to a very popular and elegant Atlantic City casino for her birthday yesterday.

Suffice it to say my mom, a longtime lover of Atlantic City and the thrill of gambling, will never go back again. First of all, the experience of gambling in this casino is akin to a job that you’re being forced to go to. In other words, just play. Don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t commiserate with the people next to you, don’t cheer on your friends, don’t stand too close to anybody, don’t let your mask drop an inch. .. You get the idea.

And the thing is, the authorities at this particular casino seemed to be making up the rules as they went along! When I tried to talk to a woman who was explaining social distancing to me (incorrectly), she screamed at me to move back — that I was getting too close. She was one of the monitors in charge of the gambling tables and she looked like she was terrified of dropping dead right there on the casino floor. One man (presumably one of the mask Nazis) at a poker table held up three fingers in an ominous signal to me that if he saw my mask slip below my nose ONE MORE TIME I was going to be thrown out. (I guess it was four strikes, you’re out?)

Hilariously, there’s a Starbucks adjacent to the casino. When I asked if I could bring my coffee into the casino, the humiliated manager looked at me sadly (at least I think it was sadly. Her face was, of course, obscured by the mask), and said, “Well, you can bring it in but you can’t drink it.”

Can’t drink it? You don’t bring a hot coffee into a room to just warm your hands. SMH.

After being warned for the fourth time that I was getting too close to my three sisters and my geriatric mother we thought it was time to pack up our masks and go home. But not before navigating the illogical “four people max capacity” in the elevator rule that caused the hundreds of people in the casino to wait endlessly to get to the parking garage. Oh, we would love to have use the valet service but that was suspended, obvs., because, well.. COVID. Duh.

My suggestion? Go to Atlantic City for the beautiful beaches, the boardwalk and everything else it has to offer. But if you’re a gambler? Wait till this COVID thing ends. If it ever does.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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