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CORONA CASINO: Las Vegas Goes ‘All-In’ on Strip Shutdown

This past week, in an unprecedented series of events for the gaming industry, MGM Resorts International announced it would close all its Las Vegas strip casino and hotel operations due to the coronavirus crisis, and then Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered a statewide shutdown of all casinos at least for the next 30 days.

According to the Nevada Resort Association, in fiscal year 2018, tax revenues generated from the hotel and gaming industry represented nearly 40% of the State of Nevada’s total tax revenues.

The corona-induced shutdown could have lasting impacts on the residents of the state, not only in terms of their employment status and standard of living, but the vast inland sea of public institutions they rely upon that is largely paid for by the gaming industry.

A potential ripple effect across the world is likely inevitable, given that so many of the hospitality brands that operate in the state and on Sin City’s hotel and casino strip have global reach.

It’s a ‘surreal’ moment for sure, watching slot machines power down, punters making their last best guess at the card tables, and then walking out onto a strip that’s now become something of a modern ghost town.

The 'Vegas Strip' emptied out. (Image Credit: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun)
The ‘Vegas Strip’ emptied out. (Image Credit: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun)

Las Vegas Sun reports…

It was a surreal moment for Andrea Henderson as she watched the slot machines power down at the Bellagio. At the same time, people were still scurrying about, trying to buy in at the blackjack tables as half the casino was shut down.

Henderson, a floor supervisor, has worked at the Bellagio for 22 years, since the day it opened. She never thought she’d see the day it closed, let alone every casino in the state.

But parent company MGM Resorts International announced March 15 that it would suspend operations at all its Strip casinos on March 16 and close its hotels on March 17 because of the coronavirus outbreak. On March 17, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos statewide to close for 30 days.

Henderson has been paying attention to the virus since it first appeared in China in December and ended up forcing a 15-day closure of casinos in Macau last month.

“When they shut down Macau, I said, ‘Oh gosh, this is big. Could this be us? Oh, nah.’ I blew it off,” she said.

Then it happened. “This is not a joke anymore. It was never a joke,” Henderson said.

The American Gaming Association estimates 616,000 casino employees in the U.S. are out of work because of casino shutdowns. Some 95% of the country’s 465 commercial casinos and about 75% of 524 tribal casinos have been closed, the trade group said.

MGM Resorts International is providing two weeks of pay for its employees and extended health benefits. And Henderson remains optimistic that she won’t be out of work for more than a month.

“So many people are greatly affected by this; they will not let Las Vegas go to sleep for longer than a month. I just don’t believe it,” she said.

How long the shutdown lasts will likely depend largely on the course the virus takes, medical experts said. In Clark County as of Friday, 126 people have tested positive for coronavirus, where two people have died.

“If at the end of the 30 days the situation has gotten much, much worse, then obviously we’ll have to extend it,” said Dr. Brian Labus, epidemiology expert at the UNLV School of Public Health. “If we get closer to 30 days and everything is better, we’ll look at how to modify it. It’s a place to start, but obviously because we don’t know how this will play out, it’s hard to say exactly how many days it will be and whether or not it will be enough.”

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