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Casinos Close Over Coronavirus Concerns

(AP Photo/John Locher)
The MGM Grand hotel-casino, which is closing, flashes messages on their marquees that read "Nothing is more important to us than your health, well-being and safety. We look forward to welcoming you back soon." Monday, March 16, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Casinos, restaurants, shows and bars up and down the world-famous Las Vegas Strip are closing over concerns about the coronavirus.

Wynn Resorts announced it is closing Wynn and Encore over concerns about the coronavirus. Closures are effective at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

MGM Resorts International is closing 13 properties on Tuesday as well.

coronavirus: what you need to know

The closures come after a growing number of cases in Southern Nevada and the Southern Nevada Health District announced its first death on Monday. 

Governor Steve Sisolak did not order the closure of all of the casinos. Roger Gros, publisher of the Global Gaming Business magazine said he thinks because the number of cases in the state is relatively low there is no need to close all the casinos completely.

"I think we need to evaluate it a little bit more," he said, "I can certainly respect the companies that closed the casinos, thinking that it is imperative that we do so. But in terms of a blanket closure, I think we need to wait for a few more days to see what's going to happen here."

While we still don't know the extent to which the casinos will close, we also don't know how many people will be impacted by a long term closure, but it is unlikely that anyone will be permanently let go. 

The closures are reminiscent of the slowdown that happened after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Gros said it may be similar in some respects but the virus outbreak is unchartered territory.

"When you add things like no sports... you really can't figure it out at this point," he said, "I think it's going to be important to really pay attention to what happens when the casinos reopen and see how quickly people return."

A more accurate way to look at the impact and recovery might be through a model created by the late Keith Schwer, who was a UNLV economics professor. He calculated in 2007 what an avian flu outbreak would mean for the Las Vegas economy. UNLV professor Stephen Miller took over Schwer's position. 

He said the model looked at the event going on for three months, which is what we might expect with this outbreak but even within that amount of time the impact would monumental with about 37,000 people losing their jobs and billions of dollars in losses.

The model also predicted it would take about three years to recover.  

It is not just the big business that will be impacted but also the small businesses. Joseph Amato is the Nevada District Director for the Small Business Administration.

He said he and his office are fielding dozens of calls a day from all kinds of businesses looking to get loans to keep afloat. He said businesses can get up to $2 million in loans to survive.

"Everything that we're doing is trying to mitigate, hopefully, the short-term effects of these closures from the casinos and everything that perpetuates from the casinos in the supply chain to businesses that are involved in the hospitality industry in general," he said.

Amato said businesses need to look at the previous years' financial statements to decide how much they will need. The money can be used for fixed costs, payroll and other expenditures.

Stephen Miller, economics professor, UNLV;  Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business magazine; Chris Sieroty, producer, Nevada Public Radio;  Joseph Amato, Nevada District Director, Small Business Administration

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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)
With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.