Nevada Governor Extends COVID-19 Measures, Casinos Remain Open at 25% Capacity

  • Current pandemic mitigation efforts in Nevada will remain in place until January 15
  • Governor Sisolak wants to protect the jobs of normal casino workers
  • COVID-19 cases and deaths have been rising rapidly in Nevada despite mitigation efforts
  • Nevada’s gaming sector has been struggling because of low visitor numbers and capacity limits
Las Vegas Strip at night
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has extended current COVID-19 mitigation measures until Janaury 15, allowing casinos to remain open at 25% capacity. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Capacity limits remain

Despite rapidly rising COVID-19 cases, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak said that casinos can remain open, though they may only operate at 25% capacity. He is trying to balance the protection of public health with the impact that further closures would have on the local economy. 

On Sunday afternoon, Governor Sisolak announced an extension to the current pandemic mitigation efforts until January 15. This means that the 25% occupancy at casinos, bars, restaurants, and most other forms of entertainment will stay in place. The governor tweeted out the live stream of the latest updates on Sunday: 

Sisolak said he does not worry about the stock prices of the casino companies. Instead, he has concerns about the casino dealers, housekeepers, performers, valet drivers, and cooks who have been dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their jobs.

In the first few months of the pandemic, Nevada lost 250,000 jobs, the largest number of job losses by a state in modern history.

COVID-19 hotspot

Nevada is taking a different approach to the pandemic than other states with commercial casinos. Governors in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have all ordered closures of casinos in recent weeks. Nevada is trying to avoid similar shutdowns. Starting March 18, gaming properties were closed for 78 days, with the state losing out on about $52m each month in potential tax revenue from gaming operations.

219 deaths related to the virus, a single-week record for the state

The latest mitigation efforts in Nevada have been in place since Thanksgiving Weekend. Virus cases are still rising, though. Last week, there were 219 deaths related to the virus, a single-week record for the state. There was an average of 2,700 daily new cases last week, with the rate of hospitalized cases being the largest per capita of any state. 

Governor Sisolak hopes that state residents will start receiving the COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week. The Western State Scientific Safety Review Workgroup has deemed that the Pfizer vaccine is “safe and efficacious.”

Struggling gambling sector

Nevada’s gaming sector has largely struggled since reopening in June. Through October, passenger numbers into Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport were down 56.6% year-on-year.

No conventions took place in the city since the casino reopenings, which has had a massive negative impact on midweek visitor numbers. As a result, several casino properties, such as the Park MGM, Encore, The Mirage, and Mandalay Bay, are closing their doors during the week. 

Gaming revenues on the Las Vegas Strip were down 43.6% through October, as properties operated at limited capacity and visitor numbers remained down.