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Southern Nevada locals casinos see traffic, but large crowds absent

Updated June 6, 2020 - 11:30 am

On Friday, the scene at locals’ casinos was parallel to that observed on the Las Vegas Strip on Thursday: Not a lot of people overall, though there were a few pockets of activity.

Restaurant offerings were limited, but coffee shops and food courts were among the busiest eateries during the daytime hours. Some crowd favorites such as the oyster bars at Palace Station and Santa Fe Station were closed for lunch but on track to open for dinner.

As expected, all buffets remain closed. Station Casinos was making creative use of its buffet spaces, however, using them to distribute rewards to players club members. Guests queued up at Palace Station and Green Valley Ranch Resort buffet areas to collect the day’s giveaways.

Many casinos seemed braced for larger crowds, however. Several had areas roped off, with floors marked for proper social distancing, at the entrances to the casino floor and certain restaurants. The Rampart Casino at the JW Marriott had bottled water available for those standing in line. None was necessary early Friday, however, as guests walked swiftly into the casino with nearly no wait and only one or two short lines for restaurants.

Several resorts seemed to have found specific niches in the larger market to fill.

The Orleans was slow throughout most of the casino but had a busy poker room with more than a dozen active tables. Bingo was among the more popular attractions during the morning hours at Santa Fe Station. And the Suncoast’s second-floor bowling alley was open, with a few lanes occupied. It’s noteworthy that while The Orleans had a sign at a foot of a stairway telling people that the upstairs arcade was open for business, those who ventured to the second floor found it closed, with the casino’s movie theater and Kids Tyme area.

There were a couple of awkward spots Friday. Savvy locals used to parking in Garage No. 2 at Sam’s Town, which has easy access via elevator, then escalator, to the resort’s Mystic Falls Park and adjacent restaurants, were turned away at the top of the escalator and told to go back down the elevator, cross a street and go up some stairs to enter near the food court. At Rampart, guests were asked to enter through the parking garage but then exit toward the parking lot and circle back around to get their cars.

One thing that was noteworthy: After a reporter visited five Strip casinos on Thursday and one locals’ casino Friday morning, the first temperature-sensing procedure she encountered was at Green Valley Ranch Resort. (Caesars Palace was running the temperatures of those who were checking in but not those who were just checking it out.) Sam’s Town, Santa Fe Station, Palace Station, Rampart, Suncoast, The Orleans, Gold Coast and Boulder Station also were monitoring temperatures.

Employees were wearing masks, but the percentage of guests who did depended on the location, with Green Valley Ranch Resort showing the highest ratio. (Boulder Station offered free masks at the temperature scan). Green Valley Ranch Resort and Palace Station seemed to be the busiest properties overall. And of nine casinos one reporter visited over the two days, the only elevator reminder she saw was at Sam’s Town, where a sign inside the cab asked guests to limit occupancy to four — particularly noteworthy after getting sardine-canned at certain Strip resorts, which seemed to have forgotten that social distancing needs to extend to elevators.

Overall, the anti-COVID measures seemed to be well-received, with no visible signs of rebellion.

“I feel it’s better than before,” said local Joe Pawloski, who was making his second visit to Green Valley Ranch since the reopening. He also had been to Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. “All of them impressed me.”

He said it seemed that maybe there were fewer people smoking.

Pawloski said he hadn’t been to any casino restaurants in the past two days, but he was on his way to meet a friend for lunch at Red Rock Station.

At Gold Coast, local Deanna Savoren was even more positive about the health measures.

“I actually like it,” Savoren said of the measures. “It was easy getting in the building. The thermal scanning was great and noninvasive. So it was pretty easy, and I really like it.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter. Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter and Instagram.

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