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Demonstrations don’t deter Thursday casino reopenings

Updated June 1, 2020 - 7:14 pm

Casino companies across the valley say they’re still planning for a Thursday opening despite protests over racial injustice that have marred the Strip and downtown Las Vegas.

The acting CEO of MGM Resorts International on Monday issued a statement condemning racism and saying the company would use its “platform, scale and resources” to advance justice.

In a letter addressed to employees, acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company supported the right to peaceful demonstrations against abhorrent acts while referencing recent protests in Las Vegas and across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

“We unequivocally reject racism, in any form,” he said. “We strive to create inclusive environments in which all people feel celebrated and we believe passionately that diversity is the soul of creativity and the heart of entertainment. There is no hospitality for hatred here and we will not accept it anywhere else.”

The company is still planning to reopen its properties Thursday as planned, along with other casino operators.

Hornbuckle said, “Make no mistake, at MGM Resorts, we firmly believe that Black Lives Matter,” and he said the company would make a significant contribution to the NAACP.

“Right now, there’s no change in plans, and we believe law enforcement has done a good job allowing peaceful protests while containing outbreaks of undesirable activity,” said Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Rich Broome.

“We will stay in close contact with government officials and Metro, and we will follow their lead. We will have extra security on hand throughout the weekend to increase the safety presence,” he said.

Caesars plans to open its flagship Caesars Palace and Flamingo Thursday at 10 a.m. Harrah’s Las Vegas will open Friday at 11 a.m.

Downtown Grand General Manager Kevin Glass said consideration of the unrest that has rocked the Las Vegas Strip and downtown Las Vegas three nights was discussed by his team, but the property doesn’t “have a change in our plans as of yet.”

Downtown Grand opened its hotel to customers Monday and will open the casino Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

Demonstrations on the Strip and downtown generally have been peaceful, but some devolved into rock-throwing and vandalism. On Sunday, Metro police fired tear-gas canisters to disperse crowds and shot plastic-covered projectiles filled with irritant powder, also known as pepper balls, into crowds on the Strip.

The Nevada Resort Association on Monday issued a statement denouncing racism, prejudice, hatred and violence.

“We recognize the pain, heartbreak and outrage that exist in the aftermath of this senseless tragedy and the urgency to create lasting and meaningful change that uplifts the African-American community and all communities of color and diverse populations,” said the association’s statement.

“We understand there is a significant national conversation taking place through peaceful demonstrations and protests which is a cherished American right we support,” a reference to recent protests in Las Vegas and across the country over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week.

The organization that represents 70 resorts statewide said, “As this conversation continues, we hope that those who seek to disrupt progress and understanding with violence and destruction recognize the additional anguish this action inflicts on the community.

“With hundreds of thousands of Nevadans of all backgrounds out of work, further civil unrest could delay the return to work we are all so eagerly working towards,” the statement said. “Together, we can heal our wounds and enact solutions that conquer the injustice too many have faced.”

Representatives of several other properties, when asked whether they would reconsider reopening Thursday in light of protests and social unrest on city streets, indicated they planned to reopen as planned without referencing the demonstrations. Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s Wynn and Encore Las Vegas will open as planned as will MGM’s Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand and MGM Grand Signature properties. Downtown’s D, Golden Gate and Plaza also will open as scheduled.

Representatives of Las Vegas Sands Corp., Red Rock Resorts and Boyd Gaming Corp. did not respond to inquiries about opening in light of the protests.

No company indicated it would be deterred from reopening as planned, although El Cortez changed its opening time to 8 a.m., from 12:01 a.m., Thursday.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

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

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