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Las Vegas Casinos In A Post-COVID-19 World

The sun sets along the Las Vegas Strip devoid of the usual crowds and traffic after casinos and other businesses continue to be shuttered due to the coronavirus Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Las Vegas.
(AP Photo/John Locher)

The sun sets along the Las Vegas Strip devoid of the usual crowds and traffic after casinos and other businesses continue to be shuttered due to the coronavirus Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Las Vegas.

It’s been two months since Governor Steve Sisolak ordered casinos to be shuttered.

It was an emotional plea to Nevadans in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Now as the rate of new infections slows, the governor is set to allow some non-essential businesses to reopen later this month.

But the reopening of the state’s largest industry is still four to five weeks away. 

Roger Gros is the publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine. He told KNPR's State of Nevada that some of the state's casinos should restart on Memorial Day.

"I think it should happen just to get it started," he said, "It's going to be a long ramp-up. So, I think it's important that we get it started. But at this point, it doesn't seem like the governor is willing to even consider that. It looks like a June opening at the earliest."

Gros said he thinks the casinos need to be open to see what the procedures are going to be to reopen.

When casinos do reopen there will be a new normal for patrons and employees – masks, sanitizers, workers cleaning and wiping everywhere. 

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He said the Gaming Commission is working on a whole laundry list of regulations for reopening that will be released Thursday.

"They're basically the bottom line of the lowest level," he said, "But the operators if they want to go beyond these regulations that's fine."

Stutz said the recommendations will include social distancing guidelines like fewer slots, fewer chairs at gaming tables and fewer tables at restaurants. Day and night clubs will stay closed and showrooms won't open.

The handing out of personal protective equipment like gloves and masks will be up to the individual casinos and whether employees wear them will also be up to each operator.

"People coming back here it's going to be safety," Stutz said, "People are going to want to know that they're not going to walk into a casino and catch coronavirus or COVID-19. They want to know that precautions are being taken that it's safe to go back into it."

He said that is one of the big things that companies will have to overcome. Stutz noted that months ago a dealer wearing a mask would have been strange but now it might be the opposite - if a dealer isn't wearing a mask people might be concerned.

Another protective measure people might see at casinos is thermal monitoring either through thermal imaging or employees taking temperatures as customers enter the casino.

Stutz said the thermal monitoring will be one of the suggestions from gaming regulators but it won't be required.

"Las Vegas Sands has already said they're going to. They're going to install them because they're used to using them in Macau," he said.

Sands, which owns the Venetian and the Palazzo, announced its plan for reopening, which besides the thermal monitoring at entrances, includes a staff of emergency medical technicians on staff 24-hours a day, seven days a week. 

It also has an extensive plan for taking a hotel room out of service and cleaning it if a guest reports being sick. 

"We don't know how long it's going to take to reopen," Stutz said, "I don't think it's going to be as quick as the end of this month."

While a lot of the details of how to keep guests and workers safe need to be worked out, Gros believes this is a perfect time for Las Vegas to reinvent itself.

"I think, certainly in Las Vegas, we've lost track of the value factor on the Las Vegas Strip," he said, "When you get the resort fees, when you get the parking fees, when you get the taxes on drinks and things of that nature and then on top of the high prices they're charging to begin with," 

Gros thinks the time is now to eliminate those fees and go back to a Las Vegas that is a bargain travel destination. Plus, with better pricing, he believes people will return faster.  


Howard Stutz, executive editor, CDC Gaming Reports; Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine


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(Editor's note: Chris Sieroty no longer works for Nevada Public Radio)