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Las Vegas casinos see some life in 1st post-shutdown Saturday

Two days after Las Vegas’ casinos were allowed to reopen, New York-New York wasn’t swamped with guests Saturday afternoon.

Many table games and slot machines were not being used, there was little business at retail shops, and restaurants off the casino floor were not crowded.

Florida retirees James and Barbara Zimmer, however, were there playing slots after coming to town for a weekend getaway.

“We’re here to have fun,” Barbara Zimmer said. “We needed a taste of being normal.”

Las Vegas casinos kicked off their first full weekend after being allowed to reopen Thursday, following more than two months on state-ordered lockdown to help contain the spread of the new coronavirus. People gambled and hit the pools Saturday, and resorts seemed busier than on Day One, when foot traffic overall was relatively tame.

But the typical mobs of tourists normally seen in Las Vegas – that is, before the public health crisis shut down much of the economy virtually overnight – still appeared missing through Saturday afternoon.

Ron and Terri Smitherling of Henderson went to D Las Vegas early Saturday, part of a planned multi-casino outing before heading back home.

Terri Smitherling said around noon that she enjoyed being out early because “it’s not so crowded.”

Bellagio had light foot traffic at one point and a calm casino floor. Four people waited to get inside the Louis Vuitton store as clerks controlled the number of shoppers, but most stores did not have many customers. Some, including Prada, were closed altogether.

Still, foot traffic seemed to pick up as the afternoon went on. Vahagn and Victoria Mkrtchyan, who live in Los Angeles, booked a room at Bellagio for the weekend because they were tired of staying home, and they couldn’t resist the discounted rate offered by a casino host.

The couple had been going to the pool, dining at restaurants, and shopping.

“People want to get away,” Vahagn Mkrtchyan said. “You’re going to see a lot more people coming here.”

At Caesars Palace, there were plenty of people at table games, with others scattered around the slot floor.

Only about half of the players wore face coverings. At the table games, they were required to.

Restaurants at some Strip resorts didn’t seem any busier Saturday morning through mid-afternoon than they were Thursday. The biggest draws seemed to be the pools, judging by the number of swimsuit-wearing people walking around.

Plenty of people wanted in at the Flamingo’s pool. The line extended about 50-feet deep in the middle of the afternoon.

Once the pool hit capacity — half of the usual limit — a patron could only enter as someone left.

Out in Henderson, Green Valley Ranch Resort seemed to draw crowds approaching pre-pandemic levels. Signs throughout the casino emphasized safety, and each person who entered the property underwent a temperature check.

All told, Southern Nevada’s casino industry, the backbone of the local economy, is coming back to life after a lengthy shutdown that fueled skyrocketing job losses. But operations are noticeably different, given the new health-safety measures.

At Downtown Grand, guests must undergo a temperature check, with anyone registering 100.4 degrees or higher not allowed to enter.

A security guard said no one had been turned away as of Saturday afternoon.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Mark Anderson, Jeff German, Gary Martin, Heidi Knapp Rinella, and Richard N. Velotta contributed to this report.

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