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Las Vegas casinos welcoming guests after long shutdown

Updated June 4, 2020 - 9:03 pm

7:50 p.m

Puck makes the CUT among Venetian/Palazzo offerings

The dinner hour has arrived at The Venetian and Palazzo, and Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse is the busiest of the open restaurants. By 7:30 p.m., there were already multiple parties seated in both the main dining room area and the section near the raw bar, with reservations for 90 on the books.

Things weren’t quite as busy further down the restaurant row that joins the two casinos. Things appeared somewhat slow at sister restaurants Chica and Yardbird, both owned by the company 50 Eggs Hospitality Group. We bumped into 50 Eggs owner John Kunkel having dinner with friends at Chica, and he was excited to have both spots open again, and to launch the company’s new Italian concept Spritz at the resort’s pool.

On the Venetian casino floor, both Black Tap and Noodle Asia are serving guests. The smaller Asian spot appeared to be the busier of the two. But the casual burger and shake restaurant, Black Tap, still has several table seated indoors. A manager explained that they’re keeping their Strip-front patio closed this evening “just in case” there are any protests on Las Vegas Boulevard.

Other dinner options in the two casinos include the Grand Luxe Cafe in Venetian (the one in Palazzo is closed), the Chinese fine-dining spot Mott 32, the Italian restaurant Matteo’s and the Hong Kong Cafe. Several notable restaurants remain closed, however, including Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant Delmonico; both of David Chang’s new concepts, Majordomo Meat & Fish and Moon Place; and the Latin-influenced Sugarcane. All of the restaurants on the second floor of The Palazzo are also closed at this time.

For those seeking libations, several bars are open throughout the two casinos. They include two out of three of the resorts’ so-called Cocktail Collective: Electra in The Palazzo and The Dorsey in The Venetian. (The third, The Palazzo’s Rosina, remains closed.)

— Al Mancini

6:15 p.m.

Lots to eat at the Linq

As dinner time rolls around, there is certainly no shortage of places to get a bite to eat at the Linq Promenade.

At least half of the shopping area’s many restaurants appear to be open. They include sit-down restaurants including Chayo Mexican Kitchen, Flour and Barley Brick Oven Pizza, The Tilted Kilt pub and the Italian spot Off The Strip, as well as counter service options such as Haute Doggery and In-N-Out Burger. For those who prefer liquid refreshment only, Ice Bar is offering window service. And if you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, the massive I Love Sugar is doing steady business.

Look for more options Friday. Virgil’s Real BBQ, for example, was not seating customers Thursday evening. But staff is on hand preparing to open the doors at 11 a.m. Friday.

One notable absence from the current food offerings is Gordon Ramsay Fish & Chips. While a sign on the door advertises that they’re open for takeout only, the doors are locked.

— Al Mancini

5:30 p.m.

The Flamingo is festive

The Flamingo’s casino floor was abuzz with activity at 5:15 p.m. Thursday. At least a dozen table games had players seated, with no more than three players at each card table, and perhaps one or two more than that gathered around a craps table and roulette wheel. Every person playing table games at The Flamingo was wearing a mask or some type of face covering — which was a departure from other casinos visited.

The place to be for food and cocktails was clearly Carlos ‘N Charlie’s. Inside the Mexican restaurant, a magician with a bandana over his face visited tables to perform illusions with playing cards and a bit of fire. On the restaurant’s patio, several tabletops were marked with yellow tape to assure social distancing. Those that weren’t, however, were crowded with customers enjoying the beautiful day. (That same gorgeous weather made the nearby pool a popular attraction, with guests lined up to check in.)

The food court also had a healthy crowd, but the brand-new Bugsy & Meyers Steakhouse sat empty behind an ornate gate, awaiting its grand opening date.

— Al Mancini

5 p.m.

Appreciating the quiet

Amanda White and friends had come from Richmond, Virginia, to celebrate Keith White’s birthday. Their original plans to arrive the day before got trashed by the pandemic, but Amanda said rescheduling was easy.

Not dedicated foodies, they were crossing the plaza in front of Hell’s Kitchen but didn’t plan to go in, and didn’t seem daunted that Caesars’ culinary choices currently were limited.

Since it was their first trip to Las Vegas they said they really didn’t have a grasp of how quiet it was, but had a feeling.

“We don’t like crowds anyway,” Chris Mahon said.

4:10 p.m.

Steaks and adventure at Circus Circus

Five minutes before its scheduled 4 p.m. opening time, a chef and hostess stood outside Circus Circus’s legendary old-Vegas Steak House, ready to welcome customers. Not far from there, a sign at the Westside Deli advised customers that the nearby buffet, which is not open, was available for overflow seating. It was an indicator of an optimism that may have been a bit misplaced, as the deli’s five booths and eight tables sat empty. But it’s still early.

The casino was quiet during the late afternoon hours. The busiest area of the resort was likely the Adventuredome, although only a fraction of the shops and restaurants surrounding the amusement area were open.

Kelly Colby and her family of six, visiting Las Vegas from Salt Lake City, were among those who enjoyed the theme park today.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Colby. “Everybody had an amazing time.”

She said this is the first casino they’ve visited, and they feel positive about the precautions they’ve seen.

“I actually feel really good. I feel like there might have been a little more sanitation stations at the Adventuredome. But as far as the casino and stuff, everything looked really great. There’s lots of hand sanitizer everywhere, so we feel pretty good right now.”

— Al Mancini

4 p.m.

Thinking about what guests want

Besides some new plexiglass, extra hand-sanitizer dispensers and a little extra space, the gaming floor of The Peppermill in Reno doesn’t look all that much different than it did in March before casinos across the state were forced to close their doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And that’s by design, said Stephen Ascuaga, the resort’s corporate director of business development.

“Part of our goal is to still give an experience where you don’t come in and it just feels like something totally foreign to what you experienced three months ago,” Ascuaga said Thursday.

Ascuaga said there was a lot of discussion internally, and back and forth with regulators to figure out what the resort could — and couldn’t — do to maintain that sense of normalcy.

Scott Evans, Peppermill’s director of slots, said a lot of it came down to thinking about what guests wanted most.

“What we did was basically take a look at what games that the guests love to play, and do everything in our power to keep those games on,” Evans said.

From there, they decided to shutdown some gaming machines to leave space between gamblers, installed plexiglass between chairs of the most popular games, and in some cases removed entire machines to give guests a little more breathing room.

Gaming machines filled up faster than the gaming tables early in the day at The Peppermill, which opened its doors at 9 am. Slowly but surely, more gamblers - roughly about half of whom donning masks - filed through the doors and made their way to their preferred gaming attractions, providing a scene not unlike that seen before the resort shut down months ago.

“I think this is a big step, even mentally, for the state, for people to see the main industry coming back online,” Ascuaga said. “I think it starts giving everyone some confidence.”

— Colton Lochhead

3:39 p.m.

A few changes at Caesars Palace

Sean McBurney wasn’t expecting a sell-out at Caesars Palace on the first day of the return of gambling to Nevada after 78 dark days.

But he knows that hundreds of Caesars Rewards loyalty card holders were due to arrive Thursday, probably more by Friday.

The general manager of Caesars Palace said gamblers can expect to see a few different things when they arrive at Caesars Entertainment’s flagship property on the Strip.

Most of those things, astute gamblers already know about: social distancing allowing just three players at blackjack tables, four at roulette wheels and six at craps tables. What might surprise them are the table minimums. Tables with a $15 minimum are rare with $25- and $50-a-hand tables in play.

While there is plenty of merchandise sales for the big-name performers that make the Colosseum home, it may be some time before the likes of Rod Stewart or Reba McEntire make an appearance.

And Caesars’ vaunted Bacchanal Buffet is closed until further notice.

— Rick Velotta

3:30 p.m.

Plenty of lookers, few diners

Some of Bellagio’s most lauded restaurants, including Le Cirque, Picasso and Spago, have yet to reopen after the shutdown. Information on when that will happen is available via QR code posted at the restaurant’s entrance. QR codes also can be used to see menus and, for some of those that have reopened, to get on waiting lists for seating.

The latter group included Sadelle’s, the resort’s deli/coffee shop, where a handful of tables were occupied Thursday afternoon.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

3 p.m.

Quiet in the sky at The Strat

Starbucks and the Strat Cafe are the only restaurants open on the casino level of the Strat. Those who pay to take the elevator up to the Observation Deck (with a limit of four guests per elevator ride), will find 108 Eats serving cookies, ice cream and sandwiches, and a bartender ready and waiting to pour them a cocktail at the 108 Drinks bar. Over the course of 20 minutes this afternoon, however, only four people were spotted up there.

Two of those were Anthony Ruelas and Karina Baltacar, of Long Beach, California. The pair have been in town since last Wednesday, staying at the Tuscany, moving over to this resort today. They said they’re glad the Strip has finally reopened.

“We saw it dead, and we didn’t like it,” said Ruelas. “I’ve never come to Vegas and seen that before. It was like ‘I Am Legend,’ that movie. It was crazy. But now I’m more excited we get to do more things.”

The Strat’s thrill rides remain closed, although the Big Shot and the Skyjump are expected to open Friday. For restaurants, a company spokeswoman said they are looking to next weekend as a possible opening date for the casino’s in-house PT’s Wings and Sports and Top of the World will open tonight for dinner.

— Al Mancini

3 p.m.

Getting a little exercise on the Strip

Seventy-six-year-old Larry Frost, of Summerlin, stepped away from the cashier’s cage at Wynn about 30 minutes after the casino reopened.

He wore a Hawaiian shirt and no mask, and said he stood in the same spot 15 years ago when the property first opened.

“I came because I’m not afraid of the virus,” he said. “I think it’s overplayed … I think if I get the virus, god forbid, it’s not going to kill me because the chances are so small. The press makes everyone afraid.”

Frost, who has lived in Las Vegas for 17 years, said he drives a sedan for a limo company and plans to return to work Friday, when he will wear a mask while he carries passengers.

On reopening day, he walked to other properties along the Strip for exercise, including Palazzo, Bellagio and Cosmopolitan.

“I wanted to see it. I’m a little bit disappointed they aren’t busier,” he said. “This should have been like a grand opening.”

— David Ferrara

2 p.m.

It isn’t whether you win or lose …

For some casino visitors Thursday, winning or losing was secondary to simply being there.

“I was playing in the high-limit area, now I’m on the pennies, so that tells you how I did,” said Darlene Schwartz, 63, of New Orleans. “But I’m so glad to be back here. I’m having a blast.”

Schwartz was one of roughly 20 gamblers on the Encore floor at 2 p.m., a number that was on par with the casino’s traffic up to that point. She’s been coming to Las Vegas since she was 17 — pre-coronavirus, as often as a couple of times a month of late — and flew in Wednesday night just to be a part of the reopening.

“It’s special,” she said of being here on the first day back for casinos.

Schwartz visited a couple of months ago during the shutdown. “I think I saw one other person at the airport. It was so depressing. … It looked like something from ‘The Twilight Zone.’ ”

This time, though, she started her day watching the Fountains of Bellagio.

Thursday was a good first step, Schwartz said, but she’s eager for things to get back to normal.

“I never thought I would say I’d be glad when I see the Strip bumper-to-bumper with traffic again.”

— Christopher Lawrence

2 p.m.

No direct ride to Cosmo restaurants

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Boulevard Tower parking-garage elevators, which previously could be used to whisk guests directly to the resort’s restaurant collection on the second floor, were stopping at the casino level on Thursday.

Stephanie Capellas, vice president of public relations, said the reason is to funnel guests to a point where they can read a self-screening questionnaire and find a security officer if they answer any of the questions in the affirmative. She said it’s part of the property’s new health and sanitation procedures.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

1:53 p.m.

Players cheer five-handed poker

Cheers erupted from poker players at the Orleans at 1:20 p.m. when poker room manager Garrett Okahara announced that gaming officials had approved games to be expanded to five-handed.

Games began four-handed at 8 a.m. Thursday, per previous guidelines from the state Gaming Control Board. Games are normally played with nine or 10 players at the table.

The South Point is the only other local poker room in action. It received approval Wednesday for five-handed play, and the Orleans joined it Thursday.

Demand was high at the Orleans. Eleven tables were in action just after 1 p.m., and more than 100 players were on the waiting lists for various games.

Okahara said the room would be looking to ramp up the number of tables in play now that he saw the high demand.

— Jim Barnes

1:49 p.m.

A local’s tour

Las Vegan Norma Cabrera was doing the circuit, checking out the reopenings on Thursday. She’d been to Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New York before arriving at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

“I like all of the hand-washing stations, all of the hand sanitizers,” Cabrera said. But she wasn’t sure what she thought of the Plexiglass partitions separating employees from guests.

“You have to scoot over to hear them,” she said, thereby defeating the purpose.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

1:42 p.m.

‘The thrill of the machines again’

Visitors to the casino at Sahara Las Vegas articulated what perhaps many were thinking after more than two months of a statewide shutdown: It feels good just to be out and about.

“I thought, ‘thank God, I can get out of the apartment,” said 88-year-old Elaine Bartnowski as she played a slot machine.

Bartnowski, a Sahara regular who lives nearby, walked to the casino Thursday morning, which she said isn’t easy because she uses a cane for support.

And while there was no recommendation to wear a face mask on the sign near the casino entrance alerting guests to public health protocols, Bartnowski wore one anyway, although she doesn’t care much for it.

“We have to do this. I understand that, but I don’t like it,” she said. “I can’t wait for them to find that vaccine, give us all a shot and go back to normal.”

For Charlynne Jackson, the return of casinos was one step toward resuming that normalcy and compelled her to make the trip from Los Angeles.

“The opening of Las Vegas, the thrill of the machines again,” she said.

But Sahara also offered her and her husband a free room when she called and this casino is a regular visit when in town, she said, slightly distracted by the Buffalo Deluxe slot machine she was playing.

Like the more than half of the roughly dozen or two visitors in the casino shortly after 11 a.m., she brought a face mask, although she didn’t have it on, pointing to the spacious casino floor as a sign that social distancing is possible.

In general, people wear masks more regularly in Los Angeles than Las Vegas and that worried her, Jackson said, but she expressed hope that the pandemic won’t disrupt everyday life for too long.

“You gotta believe that everything’s gonna be OK,” she said. “You can’t believe that it’s gonna take over everything.”

Thomas, who declined to provide his last name, had long been waiting for the moment that nonessential businesses would reopen, calling the statewide closures and social distancing measures that left many people stirring at home “worse than jail” because he paid for his own food and boarding.

“I live across the street and I’ve been sitting in front of the TV for two-and-a-half months and here I am,” he said. “I don’t have anything better to do.”

He too, wore a mask, although he said he believed the coronavirus was “a lot of hype.”

But not everyone who came out to Sahara Las Vegas on Thursday morning felt couped up.

“I’m a homebody; I like being home,” said 62-year-old Mitzi Lloyd.

But for her mother who was “sick of being in the house” and playing a slot machine close by, it is a different story.

“She’s 80,” Lloyd said. “She’s over it.”

— Shea Johnson

1:30 PM

A late lunch and some craps

At the north end of the Strip, The Sahara seems nearly deserted during the early afternoon hours. The busiest spot on the casino floor is a single operating craps table, where five or six players are standing and gambling. Four or five other table games are active, with no more than two players at each.

Dining options are extremely limited, with the overwhelming majority of the resort’s restaurants closed. Several parties are seated for a late lunch at the Northside Cafe, where the hostess reported a slow start when the doors opened this morning, with crowds picking up gradually over the first few hours of operation. The Starbucks near the hotel lobby is open, but without customers. At José Andres’ Bazaar Meat, arguably the resort’s flagship restaurant, a pair of workers could be spotted prepping the bar and the open kitchen area for their reopening Friday.

— Al Mancini

1:20 p.m.

‘To be able to just chill out for a little while’

B.C. Lewis, 43, seemed happy as he stood at a slot machine in Treasure Island. He is visiting from Arizona.

“You know, there’s a whole lot going on right now, you know what I’m saying? So to come out and be able to just chill out for a little while feels good,” he said. “Feels good.”

He said he felt comfortable with the safety measures he saw.

“So far, they look like they’re on point,” he said.

Hand sanitizer is available in various locations.

Temperature checks are performed on hotel guests and masks are available by the registration desk. At other entrances, masks for guests were nowhere to be found, and there was no indication of temperature reading equipment.

Only a few table games were open early Thursday with minimum bets set at $15 and $25. Tables had three chairs and no plexiglass dividers were in place. Cocktail service was available at the tables.

Traffic inside the casino was light throughout the morning and virtually nonexistent on the sidewalk outside.

Doreen Hill, a 57-year-old North Las Vegas resident, called the atmosphere “kind of somber.”

“I thought it would be a lot more people, but it’s not,” she said.

Hill said she was excited to get out of the house. She said she was visiting Treasure Island to see what was happening on the Strip.

She thinks people are afraid to get out right now, but expects more people to get out next week.

— Blake Apgar

1:19 p.m.

Regular returns to Reno’s Peppermill

Joyce Fefee, a 65-year-old retiree from Sparks, considered herself a regular at The Peppermill in Reno before casinos were shutdown in March. For her, Thursday marked a return of normalcy.

“I’m retired. This is my fun, and it was gone for two-and-a-half months. I missed it,” Fefee said while sitting at one of the casino’s electronic slot machines.

Inside the Peppermill, several measures were taken to keep guests and gamblers separated on the casino floor.

Several slot machines were separated by plexiglass windows. And in areas where the plexiglass was not present, every other machine was shut off and included a a message, and oftentimes lyrics from songs like The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”

In other areas, some slot machines were simply removed and the remaining machines spread out to ensure safe distances between players.

At the gaming tables, there were no more than three chairs, and dealers were separated from the players by tall plexiglass windows.

Fefee, who was wearing a face mask and gloves while playing at the gaming machines, said she felt safe inside the casino, but was a little frustrated because the machines she wanted to play were full up.

But beyond that, Fefee said she was just happy to be back.

“I am so glad to come here and just sit down and relax. Even though it’s taking my money, it’s still good.”

— Colton Lochhead

1:14 p.m.

Showgirls in masks promote social distancing

Guests entering the Flamingo from the Strip sidewalks Thursday morning were greeted by a familiar sight: Two showgirls in bright orange and pink costumes.

The catch? Each wore a matching orange mask and carried a sign thanking guests for practicing social distancing when asking for photos. No side hugs this time.

Such small twists on Vegas familiarities could be found throughout the Flamingo as it cracked back to life after the COVID-19 closure.

In the hotel lobby, a machine resembling a metal detector scanned guests’ temperatures as they reached the check-in line. A security guard watched pink and purple blotches on a screen, vaguely in the shape of people, as they passed through it.

On the casino floor, every other slot machine was shut down to promote social distancing.

Red stickers at 6-foot intervals marked where to stand while waiting in line and where to park your elbows at the craps tables.

Masks were required at table games, but only strongly encouraged at the slots. Gloves were not.

Employees worked to clean machines regularly. One rubbed down the stick used to gather the dice at the casino’s lone active craps game with a Clorox wipe about 10 a.m.

Red signs and videos on slot machine monitors suggested safe distancing practices, let gamblers know their machine would be cleaned regularly and pointed to hand sanitizer stations.

The dozen or so gamblers present at 10 a.m. quadrupled by 11 a.m., but an unusual quiet could still be felt walking through.

— Rory Appleton

12:45 p.m.

Some slots, like the rest of us, need time to adjust

Like most everyone who hasn’t worked in more than two months, some slot machines were taking some time to get up to speed.

During a quick break to gamble — reporters help the local economy, too — a James Bond Thunderball machine at Wynn Las Vegas froze during a bonus round.

While it was rebooting, the slot employee said a few machines had done the same so far today, but no more than usual.

You’d think the machines would want to get back to handing out money as fast as possible — which this one did after the flawless reboot.

But at least they didn’t use this break from human contact to become sentient.

— Christopher Lawrence

12:45 p.m.

Hot dogs hotter than hockey bar at The D

Fremont Street was quiet at lunchtime. Those entering from Las Vegas Boulevard were asked for ID before passing through metal detectors — a precaution that appeared limited to that corner. Entrances to both The D and the Fremont casinos had another set of checkpoints where guests received brief temperatures scans and were asked to remove their masks for security cameras. (The Four Queens and Golden Nugget didn’t appear to have any such checkpoints.)

The D’s American Coney Island had a steady flow of customers around noon. Upstairs, the resort’s new hockey-themed BarCanada, which opened just before the shutdown, had no customers. Its adjacent sports book was also empty, perhaps owing to limited sports to wager on. (Bets were being accepted on German soccer and Korean baseball, as well as the NFL and NASCAR). Those seeking a beverage on the second floor of the resort seemed to prefer The View bar, at the other end of the casino.

At the Four Queens, a handful of customers enjoyed lunch at Chicago Brewing Comany. Lunch options at the Fremont included the food court and Paradise Cafe. (The adjacent Paradise Buffet remains closed.) Business was slow at both, although the food court appeared to be the more popular of the two.

Outside, at the D Bar, guests seeking a giant frozen cocktail were greeted by a bartender in a tasseled two-piece outfit, bare midriff, and full plastic face covering reminiscent of a welder’s mask.

— Al Mancini

12:32 p.m.

If you can make it here …

New York New York is extremely quiet, but raucous compared to MGM Grand. Closer to the lobby, Il Fornaio and America each had a few customers. On the opposite end of the casino, employees at Tom’s Urban were waiting for customers.

Most of the action, though, was among the resort’s Village Street Eateries, where most of the quick-service spots were open and customers were milling around.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

12:30 p.m.

Roller coaster resumes

New York-New York’s roller coaster also reopened Thursday, though few patrons decided to ride it.

Las Vegas residents Daniel Chrones and Jeffrey Smith were the only people waiting to ride the roller coaster at New York-New York for some time, saying they were excited to get a ride.

“It was awesome,” Smith said after disembarking.

Social distancing rules still applied in line for the roller coaster, and each car was restricted to people who came in together.

— Amanda Bradford

12:14 p.m.

Business as usual at South Point

Patrons were already inside South Point Casino before it officially opened at 8 a.m. Thursday.

It appeared to be business as usual with a few rules added to encourage social distancing. Every other machine was closed and the tables had attracted a small crowd by 9:30 a.m.

By 10 a.m. there were about 300 people, many of whom were not wearing masks. Staff members had gloves and masks and some were wearing face shields.

The staff was cleaning machines and seats as the crowds grew.

One visitor said he was worried about the spread of the coronavirus with the opening of casinos.

“They are doing their best,” said Gregory, who declined to give his last name. “But it doesn’t matter when people aren’t wearing masks and are touching the same chips.”

He popped into the casino just to see how well it handled reopening.

He said he was happy to see employees with masks and face shields, but was dismayed there was little social distancing by patrons. He won’t be gambling anytime soon.

“I’m crossing my fingers we don’t see a (coronavirus) spike,” he said.

By noon, business was in full swing. The poker room had swelled to nearly 100 people. The crowds around the tables had grown substantially and more people were playing slots, a few with a cigarette in hand.

Dawid Maelk, of New Jersey, said the coronavirus didn’t concern him at South Point. He works as a trucker and happened to pass through Las Vegas.

“I had symptoms maybe two months ago, I’m not worried about it,” he said. Maelk walked around the Strip last night after some casinos reopened and went to a few others before he went to South Point to play poker on Thursday.

Overall, he noticed “there were less people out and all employees were wearing masks,” he said.

— Alex Chhith

12:10 p.m.

Face masks catching on at Encore

Judging by the scene at Encore, for a brief moment this morning, Las Vegas may have been the mask-wearingest place in America.

Every single employee wears them, including the lifeguards — which is going to make for some very unfortunate tan lines.

Early in the day, the only person who could be spotted barefaced was the lone table games player shooting dice among the masked workers.

As the morning gave way to afternoon, though, several guests who’d been wearing them earlier had their masks dangling from one of their ears.

With players migrating from the pool to the casino floor — which had limited the number of spaces at table games and disabled certain slot machines to allow for social distancing — it upped the percentage of maskless guests.

If anyone can be excused for eschewing masks — their own or the free ones provided at every entrance — it’s the guests at the pool. In case this needs to be said, please don’t wear a mask in the pool. That’s basically the DIY equivalent of waterboarding.

— Christopher Lawrence

12:05 p.m.

Chasing reopening states

Childhood friends Anna Marciano and Noelle Macgonigle of New York, among the first wave of visitors to enter the MGM Grand Thursday morning, said they’ve been on a national tour chasing states re-emerging from pandemic-induced shutdowns.

After a recent stop in Georgia as restrictions were loosened there, they booked their trip to Las Vegas two days ago.

The pair said they are looking forward to activities like golfing at Topgolf, ziplining and relaxing in a cabana.

“There’s nothing like that where we’re from,” Marciano said, adding that upstate New York had only recently opened its bar patios.

Asked if they’re worried about either the coronavirus or the protests throughout the city, they said they’re experiencing the same concerns at home, and would rather be somewhere with more to do.

“I hope it’s not here, but if it is, we’ll be by the pool,” Marciano said.

— Aleksandra Appleton


‘78 days without gambling’

By noon, dozens of gamblers were at machines and a few open tables inside The Strat, with plenty of room for social distancing. Less than half of the guests were wearing masks, although free masks were available at the front door, next to hand sanitizer and signs encouraging people to wear them.

“For a Thursday opening, it’s about what we expected,” Vice President and General Manager Stephen Thayer said about the crowd.

A man at the front entrance was seen checking people’s temperatures with an infrared thermometer, although people were free to enter the casino from the parking garage without being stopped. Thayer said only guests checking into the hotel were required to have their temperatures checked.

He said every slot machine remained on, even though every other chair was removed from machines directly next to each other, so that people could request to rearrange chairs.

“We don’t want to separate people that are already in the same group,” Thayer said.

Some people drove into Las Vegas in anticipation of opening day. Winston Hausen normally gambles at a casino near his home in Laughlin, but he wanted to be in Las Vegas for the reopenings.

“I haven’t gone 78 days without gambling in 32 years,” the 56-year-old said while playing his first round of video poker.

Dimitri Karabelas, 51, said he arrived in Las Vegas early Thursday after driving with a friend from San Jose, California. Both were laid off from their jobs during the pandemic, but wanted to get out of the house.

“It’s nice for the city to come alive again,” said Karabelas as he sat in the near-deserted sports book watching a horse race.

— Katelyn Newberg

11:38 a.m.

Signs of life at MGM Grand

Among the new features on the MGM Grand casino floor were two new hand-washing stations with sinks and running water on opposite sides of the floor.

On the casino floor, some slots players could be seen wearing gloves as staff walked around wiping down screens and buttons.

Table games had glass partitions set up to separate the maximum of three players per table.

Dispensers with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer were stationed throughout the casino. Temperature checks were not in use at the entrance to the hotel or the casino.

Things were starting to pick up on the food and beverage scene, though slowly. A couple of bars are open, and the Lobby Bar had three customers, socially distanced.

At Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, servers were on duty, but with no one to serve.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

11:20 a.m.

Confidence in Las Vegas operators

At the Cosmopolitan, visitors cheered when the doors opened at 10 a.m.

The first ones through were Celeste Viacava, from Phoenix, and her business partner, Tracy Hernandez, from San Diego.

They filmed themselves cheering their way through the casino before sitting down at a Buffalo slot machine. By 11 a.m., they had already won four bonus payoffs.

“Woo! Vegas baby!” they said as the machine rang to signify another win.

Employees entered the casino through a separate entrance, where they stood in front of a tablet equipped to take their temperatures. They were then given gray washable masks that they will use for 30 days before receiving another.

As masked employees sprayed sanitizer on nearby machines, Viacava and Hernandez said they trusted the Las Vegas gaming operators would get the reopening right to protect their guests and staff.

“We’re playing it safe, keeping it real,” Viacava said. “It’s fabulous, everybody is ready to go.”

The two women own an Airbnb company called Vegas Jewels and said they were excited to get it back up and running for visitors.

Elsewhere in the casino, people were indulging in beers as they played craps and sat three to a table for blackjack. Most players appeared to be wearing masks, and small video displays scattered about, reminding guests to “Play it Safe” by practicing social distancing, wearing a mask and sanitizing their hands regularly.

One man, wearing a mask sat to play video poker with a bottle of hand sanitizer. Another puffed on a cigar, his mask pulled down.

Joel Holladay, from Detroit, said it was his first time in Las Vegas and started gambling early in the morning at the D, where he won $80 at roulette. He came with his friend, Dre Jackson, from Colorado.

Holladay said seeing the lights as he flew in was just as he imagined, and that he was excited to see what the rest of the trip had in store.

“I’m not worried about the virus at all,” he said.

— Briana Erickson

11 a.m.

Getting back to normal at New York-New York

Guests poured in for check-in at New York-New York when it reopened at 11 a.m. Thursday, as about 50 people waited to get their room keys.

Laura Ferrell drove into town from Sacramento this morning for her brother-in-law’s wedding on Friday, which she said just so happened to be scheduled for this date, with no need to reschedule.

“It worked out perfect,” Ferrell said.

A new mobile check-in system was rolled out Thursday to help curb long lines and contact between guests, according to James Healey, director of hotel operations.

Healey’s eyes watered as he described seeing a child run by with a minion plush toy from the hotel’s arcade, which also reopened, saying “that’s why we’re here.”

“That’s what we want to get back to,” Healey said.

Jeff Nicastro of Chicago bypassed check-in and went straight for the slot machines as soon as the hotel opened. He said he has come to Las Vegas twice a year every year for the past 30 years and was itching to get back.

“We wanted to see what the new experience would be like,” Nicastro said. “Just to know we were a part of the reopening was excitement enough.”

Some slot machines were turned off and the chairs in front of them removed to maintain social distancing guidelines, and plexiglass stood between players and dealers at the table games.

— Amanda Bradford

11 a.m.

At MGM Grand, hardly a drop to drink

MGM Grand’s normally vibrant restaurant scene was anything but on Thursday morning. The row of fast-food places on the passageway from the parking lot was shuttered.

Walking through the casino to the resort’s avenue of restaurants was an exercise in being continually teased by a succession of shiny-clean spots, not one open. In the sprawling food court, about half of the fast-food joints were open, and two Metro officers on break were the only people in the expansive seating area.

— Heidi Knapp Rinella

10:57 a.m.

‘I wanted to get here early’

California resident Hope Avila was talking a walk along the Strip heading toward The Venetian for some gambling. It was just after 10 a.m. and there were no other pedestrians nearby and traffic along Las Vegas Boulevard was light.

“I feel good because I’ve been trapped up for three months,” she said, adding that her son lives in Las Vegas and she’s been in town for a couple weeks. “I don’t see anybody but I think the later it gets, the more people. That’s why I wanted to get here early.”

Avila said through her floral-print mask that she decided to walk the Strip for a bit but was ready to gamble “right now.”

“My son says, ‘Well, mom, you can catch (coronavirus),’ but I can catch something from anywhere — going to the market. God has been with me. I’m 71 years old. I’m a firm believer that what’s gonna happen is gonna happen. I’m going for it.”

— Subrina Hudson

10:50 a.m.

El Cortez patrons excited to be back

There was no line outside of El Cortez for their planned 8 a.m. opening because management had quietly begun letting players in at 7 a.m. to help limit crowds.

Still, 8 a.m. was ceremonious for some longtime patrons like Lana Goedert, 65, whose neighbor drove her to the front door for a prompt 8 o’clock arrival.

“It’s nice to see you working again!” she exclaimed to the valet.

Goedert rushed to her favorite machine, the Buffalo Gold. She’s been coming to El Cortez three to four days a week for at least 20 years.

“I’m beyond excitement,” she said. “It’s been 78 days.”

Goedert already had today off, but she’d warned her boss months ago that the day the casinos open she would take a holiday if she was scheduled to work.

“I like that it’s locals more than tourists,” she said.

General manager Adam Wiesberg said he estimated staff was on a first-name basis with 80 percent of players.

“I didn’t think it’d be this crowded this early,” he said just before 8:30 a.m. when the machines reported 100 players at slots alone.

The hotel meanwhile has 250 rooms opened and 50 percent occupancy for this weekend. One couple handed their bags to a bellhop right at 8 a.m. as they expressed their excitement to return.

Four table games have face shields and a few slot stations have been closed to encourage social distancing. Wiesberg said they’re trying out different safety measures until they hear from players what’s preferred.

“(The face shields) are a pretty extreme measure compared to what’s required,” he said.

Locals expressed their excitement to just get out of the house after more than two months of closures throughout the city.

“I needed to do something new,” Sergio Uribe, 46, said.

Uribe arrived at 9 a.m. to play any penny game he could find.

Angalia Bridges, 65, said her husband gave her a break from babysitting their grandchildren so she could run down the block Thursday morning to play her favorite game, digital keno.

“I know most people here, that’s why I love it,” she said.

Bridges said she could spend a few hours playing if she’s doing well and brought her headphones in case that ended up being the case.

As of 10:45 a.m. there were 180 players on the slot machines, which Wiesberg said is more indicative of a Friday night than a Thursday morning.

— Sabrina Schnur

10:40 a.m.

Wayne Newton, Caesar, Cleopatra greet guests

Caesars Palace had something you don’t see every day: Caesar, Cleopatra, Wayne Newton and Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio all wearing facial coverings as they prepared to reopen the Strip property.

A steady stream of guests staying at the hotel checked in before heading into the casino, which saw its first play just after 10 a.m.

Hotel guests are required to go through temperature screening; casino players don’t.

“We just have so many places to enter,” a masked Caesars worker said.

Newton chatted with casino players as they entered the gaming area.

One of them, Oliver Gill, a Las Vegas resident who says he’s been a Caesars customer since 1975, spent just long enough chatting with Newton before heading to the race and sports book to place some wagers on horses running at Belmont Park in New York.

Other players touched elbows with Newton before heading to the slot machines and one woman who didn’t identify herself sang “Danke Shoen” to him as he walked through the casino.

“You sing that pretty good,” he said with a smile.

— Richard N. Velotta

10:38 a.m.

Treasure Island opens to trickle of guests

Finishing touches such as placement of social distancing decals and work on a light fixture were still being done as hotel guests visited the registration desk. Just before doors opened, crews painted a handrail on the resort’s north end, and one worker cleaned up the wooden deck at the casino’s entrance.

Workers were seen wiping down machines, and a clear barrier separated staff at the players club desk from gamblers.

Signs remind people to practice social distancing and wash their hands after using the restroom.

Jonathan Phoenix’s family waited for the doors to open at the Strip-side entrance near Treasure Island’s famous ships.

“Saw earlier last week that it was reopening, so we decided to head on up,” he said.

The 38-year-old from Los Angeles said he is looking forward to visiting the pools and restaurants.

Phoenix’s birthday is coming up, and his son, Slava, just turned 6, so the trip serves a celebration for both of them.

Jef Horstman, 46, said he is on a cross-country road trip with his wife to visit national parks. He just happened to be in the area during reopening, so he decided to stop.

He said he initially had concerns about recent civil unrest, but ultimately felt safe enough to visit Las Vegas.

He said he felt comfortable with the safety measures being taken at the resort because workers were wearing masks and people were not standing too close together.

— Blake Apgar

10:30 a.m.

Somewhat quiet at Sahara Las Vegas

At 10:15 a.m., it is relatively quiet at Sahara Las Vegas. All staff, including bartenders, dealers, cocktail waitresses and cleaning staff, are wearing face masks.

There are more clusters of people in suits, perhaps casino execs, standing in circles than there are guests on the casino floor at this point.

There are Purell wipe dispensers (with built-in trash cans) in strategic locations, George Michael on the radio and the familiar beeps and ringing of slot machines.

The rule of keeping distance between slot machines that stand next to one another seems to be followed: only every other machine is operating.

No guests sitting at the gaming tables yet.

Only a handful of guests inside as of now.

It is about 50-50 on guests wearing face masks.

In terms of other cleaning measures, I see cashiers wiping tabletop surfaces, an employee wiping the entrance glass doors and another walking the casino floor with a rag and spray bottle.

Does not appear to have temperature checks at the door. At least not that I have seen.

— Shea Johnson

10:33 a.m.

McCarran, Southwest welcome travelers to Las Vegas

Southwest Airlines, McCarran International Airport’s busiest carrier, set up a carnival game area in the baggage claim welcoming travelers to Las Vegas on Thursday.

People were spinning the wheel of prizes, throwing darts at balloons and playing the bag toss to win various Southwest prizes.

There were people throughout the airport, with flights coming in form Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville among other cities.

This is a change from the past few months when the airport was a virtual ghost town.

Signage and public address announcements reminded passengers of the COVID-19 safety protocols in place as they arrived.

Crowds are jovial and appear ready to let loose in Sin City.

Mick Akers

10:10 a.m.

Encore guests greeted with applause

If you needed any more proof that Las Vegas is ready to reopen, the staff at Encore was there to provide it.

With limited entrances — the one nearest the Beach Club is now exit only — a couple of dozen employees gathered by the valet entrance to applaud the initial arrivals. Not “the boss made us be here” clapping but seemingly genuine “we’re thrilled to have you back” applause.

Hand sanitizer and masks were available to every guest. You’ll have to wait briefly for a thermal temperature check. If yours doesn’t register, you’ll be asked to walk through again.

When they weren’t greeting customers, employees were busy welcoming back their colleagues — especially the small furry member of the hotel’s K-9 unit.

— Christopher Lawrence

10 a.m.

Social distancing at Wynn Las Vegas

A crowd about 30 deep waited in line, socially distanced at the encouragement of employees, in the minutes leading up to the reopening of Wynn Las Vegas.

As the clock struck 10 a.m., employees applauded and guests shuffled inside. Each patron was offered a fresh disposable mask at the door.

Hand-sanitizing stations dotted the casino floor, alongside signs for social distancing. The smell of fresh bread in The Cafe was juxtaposed with a light scent of cigarette smoke. A man walked away from a blackjack table with a cigarette dangling from his lips, over a mask tucked under his chin.

By 10:20 am, five people had gathered inside the sportsbook, studying prop sheets. Horse racing and poker flashed next to UFC and pro football betting lines on giant television screens overhead.

Throughout the casino, masked employees wiped down slot machines, as masked cocktail waitresses offered drinks. Chairs had been pulled from half of the video poker machines and slot machines. Plexiglass partitions shielded guests from dealers at table games such as three-card poker, blackjack and casino war. Cards were dealt face up so players would not touch them.

At the cashier’s cage, Larry Frost, 76, walked away, tucking bills into his pocket. “Thank you,” the Summerlin resident said. “It’s good to be back home.”

He had won $68.

— David Ferrara

9:09 a.m.

opens on Las Vegas Strip

People were greeted with applause when the doors of the Bellagio opened at 10 a.m.

Karin Krogius and her sister, Becky Radusovsky, were among the first in line to enter Bellagio Thursday morning.

The property opened its doors at 10 a.m., but the two first joined the line around 9:25. While they usually fly to Las Vegas, the two decided to plan on driving from their homes in Newport Beach, California in case the reopening date was pushed back. They left for Las Vegas around 5:30 a.m.

“We’ve been counting the minutes for it to reopen,” said Kroguis, who typically visits Las Vegas twice a month. “(They) took our temperature, and then we went straight to the casino.”

The property itself has gone through major changes since it was last open in mid-March. Hand sanitizer stations, masks, gloves and social distancing signs are now scattered throughout the property.

Krogius said she didn’t mind the new protocols.

“We’re just so excited that they can’t do anything wrong as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to let us get back into the casino and to help Vegas get back on its feet.”

Thursday was the first time Paula Mercado of Salem, Oregon had been in Las Vegas in more than three years.

The property’s reopening timing was just right, she said; she had a four day weekend, and it was her and her husband’s anniversary weekend.

“I always have fun when I come here, it’s a nice place to be and it’s uplifting your spirit, it’s away from everything else,” Mercado said. “If you want to forget about stuff, this is the place to go.”

MGM President and Acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company is encouraging guests to wear masks while on site, and limiting the amount of people allowed within the casino.

“Obviously wearing masks for us is essential to keep everybody safe, we encourage our customers to wear them and hopefully they will,” he said. “We are going to moderate the scale of how many people we allow in the building in any given moment because we want to make sure people feel comfortable.”

Bailey Schulz

8:43 a.m.

Venetian opens its doors

It was a quiet morning outside The Venetian on Thursday, as about a dozen visitors and guests were waiting for the property to open its doors at 9 a.m.

Eyal Ben Shushan and Suzette Suarez made the trek from Florida to Las Vegas on Thursday. He said they come to Vegas every year and, for this trip, they’re planning to stay until Sunday at The Venetian.

“We love Vegas,” Ben Shushan said. “We have our spots that we like to see — not too much into the gambling as we adore the architecture and everything, to be honest. We just like traveling and getting and getting our head away from what we do in our daily lives.”

Suarez, a nurse, said she was looking forward to their vacation and Ben Shushan said he was ready to celebrate his birthday this weekend.

The pair said they feel pretty safe traveling and staying at the hotel.

“We have to do is pump back the economy and Vegas is very important for that,” he said.

Kathy Massullo and her mom, Georgia Hess, waited for nearly an hour for The Venetian to open its doors.

Hess said she didn’t realize it was reopening day.

“We had it booked,” she said. “We didn’t know it was going to be the first day.”

The Illinois residents visit Vegas as a family about three times a year, though this trip will just be the two of them. They plan to come next month with their husbands.

While Hess said she’s most looking forward to winning at the casino, her daughter Massullo sees it as an opportunity to spend quality time with Mom.

“Just enjoy being together with everything that’s been going on and trying to go back to a sense of normalcy — whatever that is — a new normal,” she said.

— Subrina Hudson

8:15 a.m.

From Henderson to The Strat

A handful of people waltzed into The Strat when the doors from the parking garage unceremoniously opened at 8 a.m. Thursday. Inside, guests greeted employees who were wiping down slot machines and poker chips.

Drew Casen, a Henderson man who described himself as “an international grand master of a game called bridge,” was waiting for doors to open with a suitcase in hand.

The 70-year-old, wearing a face mask unlike the handful of other guests at 8 a.m., said he’s been coming to the casino for 20 years to play craps. He got a room for two nights to celebrate the reopening and “get out of the house.”

“I’ve been cooped up for almost three months at home,” Casen said.

On the casino floor, all slot machines appeared to be active, but chairs were removed from machines that were directly adjacent to one another to create separation. Most of the few dozen guests spread among the slot machines weren’t wearing masks, but there was plenty of space for social distancing. About five poker and blackjack tables we’re open by 9 a.m., and gloved employees wearing masks were seen cleaning piles of chips.

Employees were checking people’s temperatures as they walked through the front entrance and got in line to check in, but no temperature check was set up at the entrance from the self-parking area.

The area around the SkyPod was largely deserted an hour after opening. An employee said the tower’s observation deck was set to open at 10 a.m., but the thrill rides wouldn’t open until 2 p.m. Friday.

— Katelyn Newberg

5:05 a.m.

‘Vegas is coming back’

As the sun rose Thursday on the Fremont Street Experience, gambler Eddie Gonzalez emerged from the Fremont with three friends. He’d been putting some wagers down and hadn’t lost money, but he hadn’t won any either.

“Even,” Gonzalez said. “Even is winning.”

Gonzalez said he went to the D Las Vegas and it was business as usual with the exception of having his temperature checked at the door. He said he felt a good vibe among the patrons.

“Vegas is coming back,” Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful it will come back.”

— Glenn Puit

4:55 a.m.

End of 3-month wait

Plenty Williams waited nearly three months for this day.

The Las Vegan has two days off from work so he headed to the Fremont Street Experience to gamble, have a few cocktails and relax at the D and the Fremont.

The scene inside the D was vibrant for 4:30 a.m., with dozens gambling and drinking at the bar. Williams called the shutdown due to the pandemic as a “depressing moment.” Now, he’s looking forward to the city’s future.

“The reopening of Las Vegas, it has made me excited,” Williams said.

“The only thing that is different about these places is when you go inside,” Williams said. “You put your wrist up, they take your temperature and offer you a mask. That’s the only thing that is different.”

— Glenn Puit

3:12 a.m.

Temperature checks

After watching multiple people at different entrances have their temperature scanned at the D, none of the dozen people scanned was above 98 degrees.

One woman clocked in at 95.4 degrees. According to the Mayo Clinic hypothermia occurs when a person’s body temperature falls below 95 degrees.

The thermal scanners used at the D are located on what looks like a metal detector, where a guest holds their wrist up to a lighted green dot to have their temperature read.

Guests who get 100.4 degrees or above won’t be allowed in casinos if they test above the temperature after a 15-minute cool-down period.

It appears the wrist scanners might not be the most accurate gauges for temperature readings.

— Mick Akers

2:35 a.m.

Lots of action

About 100 people lined up at multiple entrances on the Paseo Verde Parkway side of Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson ahead of the casino’s 12:01 a.m. opening.

The crowd counted down from 10 seconds and cheered when the doors opened. “One, two, three, viva Las Vegas!” one man yelled.

People were checked by a thermal imaging scanner. Those not wearing masks were offered them by the staff, but it appeared that about 70 to 75 percent of the patrons declined to wear them.

Every other seat was removed from banks of slot machines. Many slot patrons were smoking cigarettes.

The table games were packed, though seating was reduced from the normal capacity. Three seats were available per blackjack table. At a $10 minimum table, one man whipped out $1,400 and started playing two hands at a time, $200 per hand.

The sportsbook was open, manned by one ticket writer and one supervisor. At 2:30 a.m., live sports returned to the big screen in the book for the first time since the shutdown with the start of the Korean Baseball Organization game between Lotte and Kia on ESPN.

— Jim Barnes

12:40 a.m.

Taking a head count

A D Las Vegas employee is going around and counting how many people are in the upstairs area. Casinos are supposed to operate at 50 percent capacity.

— Mick Akers

12:30 a.m.

More gambling to do

The mood inside Golden Nugget 30 minutes after the doors first opened was perhaps best captured by a slightly intoxicated man proclaiming to nobody in particular: “Guys, we did it!”

Guests just seemed happy to be back.

A Quick Hot Super Winner slot machine dinged and dinged and dinged as Monika Heilman’s winnings rolled in.

“So far, so good,” said the 53-year-old Hughson, California, resident.

She put in $100 and ended up with $435 after her big win, but she wasn’t done gambling. She’s in town through Sunday and has a lot more playing to do, she said.

— Mike Shoro

2:02 a.m.

New normal and COVID worries

Sanitation stations, some with hand-washing sinks and others with disinfecting wipes, greeted guests at both Fremont Street corner entrances to the Golden Nugget, which appeared to be the only accessible entrances to the Fremont Street Experience.

A reporter didn’t notice anybody using them.

Roughly 20 percent of guests at the Golden Nugget were wearing face coverings, but it appeared every employee was wearing one.

Some guests who wore face coverings wore them over their mouths but not their noses. Other masks dangled around necks while people sipped from their drinks or took a drag from cigarettes.

The slot machines were separated on an every-other basis, by non-operational machines, missing chairs or both. Gaming seats at the bars were similarly separated with signs asking people to sit in every other chair. At some bars, people adhered to the every-other-seat rule but crowded together, standing behind the seats.

Guests generally obeyed the rules while seated at the slots or the bars. However, people crowded around the roulette and craps tables, at times standing shoulder to shoulder.

Cleaning crews were visible on the casino floor, wiping down vacant slot machines and dragging large garbage bins. Table games employees wiped down the table counters when people left them

12:53 a.m.

Preventative disinfectant

Dustin Boshers, director of casino operations at Red Rock Resort, said the casino is using BioProtect 500, which he said is used in hospitals.

It works as a preventative disinfectant, he said, coating surfaces and killing germs immediately. It’s supposed to last three to six months, he said.

“We took every single chip and hand-cleaned them with toothbrushes,” Boshers said. “Then did the same thing with the cards, the dice, the machines, the pillars — anything the guests might touch. Then we sprayed everything with the BioProtect 500.”

In addition to the preventative product, Boshers said there are workers cleaning the machines regularly and that dealers disinfect their tables every time they switch.

At about 1 a.m., the feeling at Red Rock was really not much different than a (formerly) normal night in a casino. It’s loud and it’s busy. But now, about one-third of guests are wearing masks.

— Alexis Egeland

12:45 a.m.

‘I’ll be here all night’

One of the first guests to enter the D Las Vegas just after midnight was casino regular Dancino Bushar, sporting a hotel-branded hooded sweatshirt.

Bushar said he comes to the D almost everyday when they’re open, and he was counting the days until machines were back on and table games were playable again.

“I tried not to, but I was thinking about the old days,” Bushar said. “Coming in here today felt like I was going in to pitch in a big game.”

Calling himself an advantage gambler, he said playing casino games is his only source of income.

“It was tough. I had a very humbling experience,” Bushar said. “No income, no unemployment, no nothing. I had to borrow money from my ex-wife back home, and that wasn’t easy to do.”

Having played at the casino regularly, Bushar said, you can tell how clean it is right when you walk in.

“When I walked in, I don’t know if everyone sees it the same way I do, but it looked like the future,” he said. “It looked clean. I could tell the difference in smell from when it closed until now.”

Not having a game plan for his first night back on a casino floor, Bushar is going to go with the flow.

“I’m gonna wait for a machine to wink at me, and I’m gonna wink back and it’s going to be love at first sight. I’ll be here all night,” Bushar said.

— Mick Akers

12:40 a.m.

Taking a head count

A D Las Vegas employee is going around and counting how many people are in the upstairs area. Casinos are supposed to operate at 50 percent capacity.

— Mick Akers

12:32 a.m.

Lots of action

At Green Valley Ranch Resort, there is lots of action in the pit. Table games are observing guidelines: six players at craps, four for roulette and three for blackjack.

— Jim Barnes

12:27 a.m.

Distancing ‘No. 1 priority’

At Red Rock Resort, Joe Yalda, vice president of guest experience, said there are chairs at only half of the machines to promote social distancing.

“Physical distancing is our No. 1 priority,” he said.

Yalda said employees are cleaning machines and surfaces regularly, but guests can also request that their machine be cleaned or sanitized at any time.

He explained that the casino floor experience will be very similar to how it was before, but with more cleaning and a quick temperature check at the door. The thermal imaging scanner is fast. You stand on a dot, and a machine about 6 feet away scans your temperature in about 2 seconds.

— Alexis Egeland

12:15 a.m.

‘Ready to lose some money’

John and Christie Price live in Laguna Beach, California, but when they learned at 5 p.m. Wednesday that Red Rock Resort was reopening, they packed a bag and decided to make the drive. John said he and his wife have been going stir-crazy and couldn’t wait for Las Vegas to reopen.

“I read Yahoo.com, the front page, and I saw ‘Vegas is reopening’ and I told my wife we had to come,” John said. “It’s historic.”

The couple said they feel like this is the safest time to come to the casinos because everything is so clean.

“Plus, we know we’re the first ones in the hotel room,” Christie said.

The couple only plans to stay for one or two nights but are excited to unwind.

“I got the Vegas excitement,” John said. “I’m ready to lose some money.”

— Alexis Egeland

12:13 a.m.

Timeless tradition

At Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, every other seat has been removed at slot and video poker machines. Lots of people are enjoying a cigarette with their slot sessions. A timeless Vegas combo.

— Jim Barnes

12:01 a.m.

Downtown casinos reopen

A digital fireworks show on Fremont Street Experience’s LED canopy marked the occasion.

— Mick Akers

11:47 p.m.

‘I just want to gamble’

Shawn Berry is at the front of a line of about 75 people waiting to get inside Red Rock Resort. She said she doesn’t care about the changes inside.

“I just want to gamble,” Berry said.

— Alexis Egeland

11:40 p.m.

A thirst to gamble

A couple of hundred people wandered the illuminated Fremont Street Experience, waiting for casinos to reopen.

Luan Jarrad, 50, and her mother, Rien McKay, 72, sipped on Ketel One and pineapple, and a lime-colored Patron margarita, at the Stage Bar outside Golden Nugget. It was 11:40 p.m., and the bars were lined with people.

Jarrad made a four-day, backroads road trip from her home on the outskirts of Flint, Michigan, to visit her mother in Las Vegas. She’d been saving up money for her first Las Vegas visit in three years, and the $1,200 CARES Act check helped push her over the edge to finally make the trip.

Visiting her mother aside, why else would Jarrad want to be in Las Vegas to coincide with its reopening?

“I wanted to gamble,” she said.

Jarrad said she wasn’t too worried about contracting the coronavirus, though her mother wore a mask and she planned to put hers on when she entered the casino. And when McKay, happy to finally be out on the town for the first time in two months, high-fived some other excited people on the street, her daughter made sure to hand her a bottle of sanitizer. It wasn’t packed, but better safe than sorry.

“I thought it would be busier than this right now,” Jarrad said.

Waiting outside the entrance, 53-year-old Jessie Brown of Las Vegas was excited to sit down and play the slots, but she was also excited that the casinos reopening meant employees would finally get back to work.

More people began to line up outside the casino’s corner entrance at Fremont Street and Casino Center Boulevard as the minutes ticked down to 12:01 a.m.

“This is a very first for Vegas, that we’ve never had to wait in line to get into a casino,” Brown said.

A haphazard countdown began among the people, and an LED fireworks show began on the canopy overhead as the casinos opened their doors at 12:01 a.m. Thursday to cheers.

— Michael Shoro

11:33 p.m.

Street performers return

The Fremont Street Experience means the return of street performers who are a staple under the LED canopy.

Stanley Ponanski, 47, isn’t a veteran downtown Las Vegas street performer. He moved to Las Vegas nine months, and tonight will be his first on the job.

Previously working as a haunted house performer, his friend is a street performer and he heard how much money she made, so he wanted to give it a try.

“I wanted to try a different talent and do my own thing now,” Ponanski said.

He is painted silver as a statue and has the appearance of supporting himself in a squat on one leg.

“Kind of like a balancing statue,” he said.

Ahead of midnight Ponanski already had pulled in a good amount in tips and said he enjoyed the interaction with partygoers.

“I had people who thought I was fake and trying to figure out how I’m doing this with my leg power,” he said. “It’s amazing to see what people’s reactions are.”

— Mick Akers

11:32 p.m.

‘I did extend my trip’

At Red Rock Resort in Summerlin, James Mortensen, of Portland, Oregon, was asked if he came to town just for the casino reopening.

“I wish I could say I did, but no,” he said. “I did extend my trip for it, though.”

Mortensen, whose daughter recently moved to Las Vegas, said he was able to walk through the casino to go to the Yard House bar earlier and that they took his temperature and he had to wear a mask. He said there are fewer chairs, with every other machine empty.

“I’m glad I get to be here tonight,” he said. “It’s kind of cool that I’m going to be one of the first people back in there.”

— Alexis Egeland

11:29 p.m.

Social distancing

The practice is being enforced at Fremont Street Experience. A security guard came up to me as I was interviewing someone and asked me to social distance from the gentleman.

— Mick Akers

11:14 p.m.

21 and older?

Despite the Fremont Street Experience advertising an age limit of 21 and older Wednesday night, families with small children have been spotted throughout the area.

— Mick Akers

Get the party started

Las Vegas hotel owner Derek Stevens is ready to get the party going again.

Stevens, who owns the D and the Golden Gate downtown, had some pregame excitement as guests started checking into his properties Wednesday morning in anticipation of gaming coming back.

“We opened the hotel at the Golden Gate and the D at 11 a.m. today, so I’ve already gotten the opportunity to see a lot of people check in,” Stevens said. “Everybody is checking in with a smile and are glad to be back in Las Vegas.”

Those checking in are from all over the United States, with some part of the 2,000 flights Stevens gave away to help kick-start Las Vegas during its first week of reopening.

“We’ve certainly had a good number of those people book rooms with us,” Stevens said.

Stevens expects to have people lined up and down the Fremont Street Experience waiting to get in at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

“I expect it to be a full house here tonight,” Stevens said.

Those who are ready to jump back into the gambling action after midnight will do so with coronavirus-related safety measures in place. With capacity limited to 50 percent on the gaming floor, it won’t be the Las Vegas most are used to.

“We’re going to learn about that (how people react to the new safety protocols),” Stevens said. “I think everybody is going to come back and have a great time. That’s really the key thing, that everybody has a fun time and obviously they have to be safe to be able to have a fun time.

“They’re going to see some enhancements and some changes, but I think from a customer perspective I think they’re going to love this new Las Vegas.”

— Mick Akers

Casinos reopening after 78-day shutdown

Nevada casinos reopened for gaming at 12:01 am. Thursday, ushering in guests eager to try their luck 78 days after resorts were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Certain amenities, including buffets and shows, remain closed. Not all properties will reopen Thursday, and those that do will follow a new set of health and safety protocols. Guests can expect to see lots of plexiglass, masks and social distancing reminders.

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

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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