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Nevada Gaming Industry Expected To Reopen By June 4

Nevada’s two-month casino shutdown is over.

Governor Steve Sisolak gave the green light Tuesday allowing casinos to reopen on June 4.

That’s 78 days after the industry was first ordered to close to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

As casinos begin to reopen … will people come back?

"I think we'll see some people, but I don't think it's going to be the mad gamblers rush that we've seen in the locals' casinos in Arizona, California and a lot of the other states," said Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine.

Gros said air travel is not up to where it used to be so fewer people will be able to fly to Las Vegas. Plus, those who would drive from California or Arizona have casinos closer to where they live to go to instead of driving here.

Howard Stutz, the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports, agreed. He said the casinos will open gradually.

"Caesars, for example, is 4,000 rooms," he said, "They're going to open one tower maybe, and in that, they're just going to put a few hundred rooms up on the market, then if those get taken, they'll put another couple hundred up. It's just going to be phased increments."

Stutz said there are a lot of variables that will determine how much tourism returns that it really is "watch and see" at this point.

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When those resorts do open, there will be visible changes to how they operated, Gros said.

"I think we've already seen a lot of things being implemented that are going to be standard in every casino in terms of every other slot machine off - at least - three players at a blackjack game. The employees coming and wiping a machine down after somebody leaves."

Gros said those are the types of things that are going to be just part of the new normal for operating casinos.

Employees will be wearing masks but whether customers will be wearing masks is still a question. Gros said it is likely that casinos will make wearing a mask optional for guests.

Stutz sees masks as an opportunity for casinos to market themselves.

"This is going to be the new normal at least for a while," he said, "I think you're going to see logos on the masks from different properties, handing them out. The new collectors' item, like casino chips."

Besides new safety protocols, another change that could bring tourism back is a drop in prices and the elimination of fees. 

Some casinos are offering free parking, others have done away with resort fees. Resorts have even been offering steep discounts on rooms.

Anthony Curtis publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor said Las Vegas will become a bargain destination again.

"Vegas has always hung its hat on a value proposition," he said, "Even at the point where things were at their highest and they were - you can say- gauging on the Strip, which they were, there were still lots of ways to get value in Vegas. I think you're going to start seeing that across the board now." 

Curtis said it will start with room discounts just like it did following 9/11 and during the Great Recession. Resorts will lure travelers in with lower rates.

"They're going to do everything to make it so people can't help themselves," he said. 

Already the Sahara has eliminated resort fees and Derek Stevens, who owns the D Las Vegas downtown and is building the new Circa resort downtown, is offering 1,000 free flights to Las Vegas from more than 20 different cities around the country.

Curtis said we're going to see a lot more promotions like those to get tourists to return.

When visitors return there will be things that have changed, including the closure of a Las Vegas classic - the buffet. The Golden Nugget and the TI have both announced they're closing their buffets permanently. 

Curtis believes the Las Vegas buffet at other properties will eventually return.

"It is part of Las Vegas... what we might see is a difference in the way those buffets function," he said, "The buffets aren't as good. The experience is not the same when the food is being doled out to you by the employees the way that they would do on a cruise ship."

He said customers might see that style of buffet for a while but the original serve-yourself style will come back because customers love it.

As for the other amenities in a resort, like pools, nightclubs, dayclubs and lounges, Curtis said the pools will open with social distancing rules in place but dayclubs and nightclubs won't for some time.

The Las Vegas of the future will be different in some ways but the same in others with safety and health a priority but a good time has to be part of it as well, Gros said.

"It's going to be quite a balance between safety and health and fun," he said.

Guests

Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine; Anthony Curtis, publisher, Las Vegas Advisor; Howard Stutz, executive editor, CDC Gaming Reports

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