Proposal Seeks to Double Nevada Casino Capacity by March 1

  • Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick wants to raise public space occupancy to 50%
  • The state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force will first consider the proposal
  • Nevada Resort Association president Virginia Valentine backed calls to increase capacity
  • Casino resorts want clarity about future capacity changes so they can budget and plan ahead
  • Gaming revenue for Nevada’s casinos in 2020 was the lowest it has been in over two decades
night skyline of resort towers in Las Vegas, Nevada
Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick is working on a proposal to increase Nevada casino capacity from 25% to 50% by March 1. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Clark County commissioner pushes for 50% occupancy

Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick has said she is developing a proposal that would see the maximum operational capacity for businesses, public gatherings, and live entertainment in Nevada increase to 50% by March 1. 

casinos in the state can only operate at 25% capacity

Currently, restaurants, bars, and casinos in the state can only operate at 25% capacity because of the ongoing pandemic, with the measure being in effect until February 12. Kirkpatrick will first present her proposal to the COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force in Nevada. If approved, it will then go to Governor Steve Sisolak for his consideration. 

Speaking about her work on the proposal, Kirkpatrick said: “I want to be ready to have some recommendations in the event that I’m asked by the mitigation task force or himself on what we can relax.” She also referred to improving virus trends alongside lower levels of hospitalization and more vaccinations.

The Clark County Commissioner plans to submit the proposal at the next meeting of the COVID-19 task force, which will likely take place “in a few weeks.”

Resorts support a capacity increase

Virginia Valentine from the Nevada Resort Association also supports the push to increase capacity sooner rather than later. She outlined how many businesses are currently struggling as a result of the strict limits imposed. The president of the gaming and resort sector’s lobbying arm said:

The speed of Las Vegas’ recovery and bringing back tens of thousands of jobs depend on how soon we can hold gatherings and events.”

A variety of stakeholders have been working to attract events and meetings back to the state as soon as possible, according to Valentine. Regarding a possible capacity increase, she advised event organizers to get some “predictability” for venues to be able to budget and plan ahead. 

Nevada casino sector’s struggles

The Nevada casino sector has been trying to adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as much as possible.

Following the initial wave of virus cases in March 2020, casinos in the state closed for 78 days until June 4. After reopening, they were able to operate at 50% capacity with extensive health and safety protocols in place. As infection numbers escalated in Nevada once winter set in, the authorities dropped the allowable capacity down to 25% in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. 

Many casinos in Las Vegas are now only opening on weekends because of low visitor levels, especially since no conventions are taking place in the area. Some properties have not reopened at all since initially shuttering in March last year. Air travel in Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport dropped by 29 million passengers in 2020.

As a result of the pandemic, casinos in Nevada had their worst year in terms of gaming revenue in over two decades. Total gaming win for the state’s casinos fell 34.6% year-on-year to $7.87bn in 2020. The Las Vegas Strip suffered significantly, seeing its total win dropping 43.3% to $3.73bn.