Tony Iori typically visits Las Vegas multiple times a year, making him the prototype for the kind of visitor Las Vegas wants.
But while Iori, a vice president at Iori Insurance in Cincinnati, can’t wait to gamble, dine and go to concerts in Las Vegas, thousands more aren’t as sure. That’s why many worry “the return” is going to take longer than expected, and why some fear Las Vegas isn’t going to be the way it used to be.
“My wife and I went out there in January, it was my birthday,” Iori said. “We saw a couple shows, we stayed at Caesars. And then we were supposed to go out for the (National Football League) draft. When that got canceled, my wife and I decided to plan a trip in August. And then every year, my sons and I go out there for the first week of college football and go to The Mirage sportsbook and hang out and watch football. It’s great.”
Iori said he loves to come here for the pre-March Madness conference basketball tournaments. When he’s here in August, he and his wife plan to see Billy Currington perform. When he’s here with his sons, they watch college football in the sportsbooks, lounge around in the pools and spas and spring for a steak dinner in a private room at the Montecristo Cigar Bar at Caesars.
“God willing, it’s all up and running,” he said.
But will it still be the same?
Experts know a lot more now than they did when the coronavirus put a chokehold on Las Vegas in March, but they still don’t know enough to be confident about what’s ahead.
When will the casinos open? Unknown. How long will capacity restrictions at casinos be in place? Unknown. When will showrooms be back to normal? Unknown. Will special events and NFL games at Allegiant Stadium be affected? Unknown.
The Nevada Gaming Commission approved casino reopening guidelines last week, but those spurred almost as many questions as answers. Public reaction shows that not everybody is on the same page about operations once casinos do reopen. The Gaming Control Board’s guidelines are silent on some operational matters, but federal, state and local health recommendations are in place and regulators say gaming companies are required to abide by them.
Casino staff members will be required to wear masks, but it’s only suggested that guests wear them. (I suspect some resorts will require that of their guests.)
If Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend that the largest gatherings be limited to 250 people, what becomes of the city’s convention industry? And how long will that last?
Iori said part of the fun of Las Vegas casinos is mixing with fellow players.
“You like to talk to each other, high-five each other,” he said. “If it takes away from the fun and excitement, that’s what Vegas is all about.”
Iori said he’d be willing to wear a mask while flying across the country to Las Vegas — he doesn’t have much choice on that.
He also said he’d be willing to pay for drinks instead of getting them complementary if that helps stabilize casino finances and allows servers to keep their jobs.
“You have to appreciate the people dealing,” he said. “How are they feeling about this? If that’s what they want and that’s the way it’s going to be for the first couple of months, then that’s the way it has to be until we get a vaccine.”
Based on the behavior exhibited by many in Las Vegas, not everybody visiting a casino is going to be in agreement. I still get email regularly from people swearing the coronavirus is some massive conspiracy designed to take their rights away.
But there is some reason for optimism.
In its earnings call last week, Golden Entertainment, operators of The Strat, said that when the company reopened its slot route in Montana last Monday, player demand was as high as it was when the pandemic started.
If that happens in Las Vegas, a lack of demand may be short lived.
While the return of Las Vegas may not take the form of a massive reopening celebration as suggested early on, it’s sure to come back eventually.
All we need is a few more Tony Ioris.