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Irresponsible tweet hurt workers, damaged social media credibility

In times of crisis, it’s not unusual to see an overabundance of wild rumors and speculation.

We saw plenty of that last week in one of the wildest times of crisis ever experienced by Las Vegas and the world with coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.

One of the worst examples of social media run amok Friday was Las Vegas Locally’s irresponsible tweet that The Mirage was closing and that its guests were being relocated.

That was false.

Even with all the unprecedented events happening as a result of the outbreak — the suspension of the NBA and NHL seasons, the cancellation of the NCAA’s March Madness tournaments and all collegiate spring sports and the closure of many of the city’s dayclubs, nightclubs and buffets — the closure of a Strip resort so soon would be a stretch.

Southern Nevada is going to take a huge economic hit as a result of the coronavirus, and disseminating false information to an audience that includes potential visitors is only going to make that worse.

For the most part, the local resort community and trade show organizers have been forthright about closures and cancellations. My Review-Journal colleagues have been working tirelessly to provide accurate information as it happens. While most of the news isn’t pretty, it’s true.

We’ve noted the wave of trade show cancellations and postponements, including the massive National Association of Broadcasters show and the important RECon event moving off the convention calendar. We’ve chronicled how colleges and public schools are responding to the outbreak. And we’ve reported that some events are waiting to make a decision, like next month’s 2020 NFL draft and May’s Electric Daisy Carnival, two massive events that would further damage the city economically if they were to go away. (Neither event had canceled at the time this column was printed).

What’s hard to reconcile is that everyday working men and women get hurt the most by false reports, because they’re going to lose tip money from our visitors.

It’s also important to note that some of the bloggers and social media amateurs are the same people who complain bitterly that the professional media don’t acknowledge them when they report a “scoop.”

Sadly, they’re often as wrong as they are right, which is one of the reasons we call and verify information before posting it online and do not rely on random posts and unnamed sources.

As for the rumor about The Mirage closing its doors, I emailed the state Gaming Control Board with an inquiry, since there’s a gaming regulation that addresses closures by licensed operators.

Under Regulation 9, a licensee ceasing operations because of natural disaster is required to notify the Control Board of the circumstance, the anticipated duration of the closure and whether the licensee plans to continue operations once the problem is over.

Licensees are within their rights to close portions of a hotel or casino without a notification.

There also are protocols and procedures outlined in regulations for the planned closure of a casino property that involve the surrender of a gaming license.

Clearly, The Mirage has no intention of abandoning its license. It has no plans to close as a result of what could become an economic disaster. Heck, even a phone call or an email to MGM Resorts International inquiring about a pending closure could have done the trick.

Instead, the posting of a false rumor ratcheted up the anxiety in a community already nervous and on edge.

That’s what gives social media a bad name.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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