However, whenever the casinos and resorts reopen – most likely in early June – after being closed for several weeks, gamers will no longer be permitted to hold playing cards. One hundred slot machines have been removed from the casino, while the remaining seven hundred and fifty have been relocated. There is tape on the floor at the craps tables to indicate where players should stand to comply with social-distancing rules.
For the time being, “The days of sixteen people high-fiving each other around the dice table are over,” said Adam Wiesberg, general manager of the El Cortez, whose past owners included legendary gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.
Las Vegas, which has been particularly heavily hit, is in a perilous situation as many other towns and states try to rebuild. For Las Vegas, the stakes are immense. The leisure and hotel industries contribute almost one-third of the local economy, more than any other major metropolitan area in the country. When the city reopens after being quarantined for several weeks due to the coronavirus epidemic, it will be a very different place than it was before.
To begin with, several of the most expensive hotels and casinos along the Las Vegas Strip will remain closed. The world-famous buffets with unlimited food will be discontinued. The nightclubs will also be open. It is currently unknown when huge gatherings, must-see live entertainment, and sporting events will resume.
Gambling accounts for over one-third of the revenue earned by MGM Resorts International, Wynn Las Vegas, and Las Vegas Sands, all of which provide white-glove service to their clientele. Other forms of entertainment and hospitality, such as hotel rooms, restaurants, nightclubs, spas, pool parties, and shows, account for the remaining two-thirds.
Will guests who used to come to party poolside during the day, rock out at concert venues at night, and dance until the early hours of the morning be drawn to the city in its more basic form?
“Part of the reason these people can charge $25 for a watered-down vodka soda is the excitement and environment around their resorts,” said Chad Beynon, an analyst at investment bank Macquarie Group. “These folks may charge whatever they want for anything they want,” he went on to say. Will people still attend if these clubs are closed and the same kind of party atmosphere is not allowed?
For many people, going to Las Vegas is an opportunity to experience the polar opposite of social isolation
“Nobody comes to Vegas to spend time alone,” says Brian Labus, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Public Health and a member of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s medical advisory group. “It’s a social gathering place where people may interact with one another.”
Midway through March, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the shutdown of all non-essential businesses in the state. The 2008 financial crisis resulted in a significant increase in the number of residential properties placed up for foreclosure and a precipitous drop in housing prices throughout the region. The city was one of the slowest to recover from the crisis’s consequences.
However, at the start of this year, the city was attracting over three million tourists per month. As a result, the city’s hotels were booked, forcing people to cram into casinos, Cirque du Soleil shows, and eateries. During the preceding three months, ending in February, the state’s gaming business pulled in more than one billion dollars.
The city’s fortunes have filled its skylines with multibillion-dollar projects aimed at attracting large crowds, such as The Venetian’s nearly 17,000-seat MSG Sphere, the nearly 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium, which will be the new home of the National Football League’s Raiders, and the mega-resort project, Resorts World Las Vegas. The Circa Resort and Casino’s temperature-controlled rooftop pools, which can accommodate 4,000 people and will be positioned above a two-story casino now under construction in the downtown area, will allow guests to watch games and other types of entertainment on a big outdoor television screen.
“Things were extremely positive here in Las Vegas,” said Stephen Miller, professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Things were looking up in Las Vegas.” And now, as a result of the virus, the public health crisis, and the government’s decision to shut down the economy, it appears to me that Las Vegas will be one of the Western United States’ most impacted metropolitan areas.
Indeed, Nevada’s unemployment rate soared to 28.2% in April, the highest in the US and the state’s history, as casinos and other non-essential firms laid off or furloughed hundreds of thousands of workers. This was the state’s highest unemployment rate in history.
Sisolak indicated the week before last that casinos might reopen as early as June 4th
The Nevada Gaming Control Board, on the other hand, has issued new regulations requiring additional cleaning and social-distance measures, as well as limiting occupancy to 50% of the total available area. Slot machines, which may account for up to half of the gaming income in some casinos, are being phased out, and casinos are debating whether or not to raise the minimum stakes at card tables. The maximum number of players at each blackjack table is three, whereas the maximum number of players at each poker table is four.
Executives at Wynn, which recorded a 42% reduction in revenue in the first quarter and saw a profit of $105 million transformed into a loss of $402 million from the previous year, say they aim to open both the Wynn and Encore locations. This announcement comes despite Wynn reporting a 42% reduction in sales in the first quarter. So far this year, the value of Wynn Resorts’ stock has fallen by 46%.
MGM Resorts executives informed Wall Street analysts late in April that the company would most likely initially launch the Bellagio, which is home to the iconic water fountain show, and New York, New York, a midrange facility with a roller coaster. MGM Resorts is one of the Strip’s largest casino operators. MGM’s stock price has dropped 53% so far this year.
Every hotel and casino is doing everything possible to secure the safety of their guests
To comply with social-distancing regulations, The Venetian, which is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp., has put thermal cameras at entrances, erected plastic barriers at hotel check-in desks, and removed nearly half of the chairs from its pools before rearranging the remaining chairs.
Wiesberg reported that he made a last-minute trip to the El Cortez to buy face masks, gloves, and gallons of hand sanitizer in preparation for the property’s reopening.
Screaming Images, a local design firm, was in charge of creating and installing transparent, detachable plastic partitions that can be placed between players at card tables. Wiesberg has claimed that he intends to try these partitions on some blackjack tables to see how they work and how consumers react to them.
Even though players would not contact the cards while playing, Wiesberg hired Elite Chip Care, a local company that cleans and sanitizes chips using ultrasonics, to clean 28,000 chips in the middle of May. Elite Chip Care also coats the chips with an antibacterial protectant that claims to protect surfaces for sixty days. Employees will be temperature checked, but he does not believe it is practicable to take the temperatures of clients entering the casino by one of the dozen doors from the street, where temperatures can reach 110 degrees.
Due to the casino’s limited capacity, Wiesberg has announced that he intends to raise the midweek minimum stake on some blackjack tables from $5 to $10, and the minimum bet on roulette from $2 to $5. For big rollers, the gambling institution will include a high-limit table.
Even though this may be the most challenging test for Las Vegas, Wiesberg, like other casino executives, remains optimistic.
Wiesberg believes it will recover and grow stronger. “The city of Las Vegas is a significant part of American culture. And I believe it will come back even stronger than before.”