Gamblers Return to Las Vegas as Casinos Reopen

  • Las Vegas casinos have reopened their doors after a 78-day closure
  • Foot traffic in casinos has been steady since Thursday morning
  • COVID-19 safety measures have been implemented to ensure customer and staff protection
  • Nevada gaming revenue has dropped dramatically since beginning of pandemic
The Las Vegas skyline at dusk
Gamblers returned to Las Vegas casinos this week after operators reopened their doors to customers. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Doors closed for 78 days

Las Vegas casinos have welcomed their first guests since closing their doors in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of casinos reopened early Thursday morning after the 78-day closure.

Although many casinos had openings planned for 10am local time, some downtown casinos opened their doors at midnight as virtual fireworks lit up the Fremont Street canopy. The Bellagio turned on its famous fountains to commemorate the reopening with a personalized water show, while nightclubs, concert arenas, and convention halls remained closed.

A slow awakening

According to ABC News, hundreds of gamblers queued outside of The D Las Vegas prior to the 12:01 opening time and casinos were packed with gamblers throughout the early hours of the morning. At lunchtime on Thursday, foot traffic on the Strip and inside the casinos was slow but has reportedly picked up since.  

a number of operators have opted for a phased reopening

Though virtually every gaming company has reopened casinos in the Las Vegas area, a number of operators have opted for a phased reopening. MGM, for instance, has only opened the Bellagio, MGM Grand, New York-New York, and Signature this week, planning to follow with Excalibur on June 11.

The reopening of casinos proceeded despite the George Floyd protests in Las Vegas. Wynn Resorts did, however, push back its planned opening to daylight hours to try to minimize any potential disruption, as the protests have been mainly at night.

A different kind of gambling

All Las Vegas casinos have implemented a string of health and safety measures to ensure the protection of customers and employees. In order for casinos to reopen, their safety protocols had to receive approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. These standards include face masks for employees, hand sanitizer stations throughout the casino floor, and mandatory social distancing inside properties.

In further preventative measures, Las Vegas gaming and resort properties partnered with the University Medical Center, the Culinary Health Fund, and the Las Vegas Convention Center to provide COVID-19 testing for all casino employees before they returned to work. The Las Vegas Convention Center was used as a venue for the testing, collecting up to 4,000 samples per day from late May.

What is the damage?

Nevada’s gaming revenue has suffered as a result of the closure of Las Vegas casinos. The state saw gross gaming revenue (GGR) of just $3.64m for April, a 99.6% decrease year-on-year. Since February 1, Nevada’s market has generated total GGR of $1.6bn, a drop of 44% from 2019.

Nevada would likely be one of the hardest hit states in the nation”

As part of a 23-page health plan released in April to kick-start the reopening of Las Vegas, Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts, warned that the economy was “in a free fall” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that “Nevada would likely be one of the hardest hit states in the nation and suffer very high unemployment.”

For Q1 2020, Wynn Resorts saw a 42% decrease in revenue year-on-year, down to $953.7m. The operator generated $77.2m from Las Vegas operations for the period, a 19% fall. Caesars brought in $1.83bn for the same period, a drop of 14% from 2019. Caesars’ decline in revenue was slightly offset by growth in Las Vegas and Indiana revenue prior to the closures.