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Las Vegas casino reopening ‘major milestone’ for city, industry

Updated May 27, 2020 - 3:39 pm

Several Las Vegas casinos are a little over a week away from reopening their doors.

On Tuesday evening, Gov. Steve Sisolak confirmed casinos may reopen June 4. The Gaming Control Board provided more details to casinos Wednesday on reopening requirements, including encouraging patrons to wear face coverings.

The June 4 date — first announced last week — comes more than two months after casinos were ordered to close.

Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association, said the reopening is “welcome news” to the industry and its employees. 

“After more than two months of planning, refining health and safety protocols, reconfiguring the casino floor and employee training, our members are ready to open on June 4 and return to the work of entertaining guests in a secure environment,” she said in a Wednesday statement.

While not all properties in the state will take advantage of the reopening date, several casino operators said they’re excited to welcome guests again.

Casinos ‘looking forward’ to June 4

Properties set to open June 4 include the Strat, Caesars Palace, Flamingo, The Venetian, Wynn Las Vegas, Encore Las Vegas, Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand, The Signature at MGM Grand, and Sahara Las Vegas. With a phased reopening approach, additional properties will open in the months ahead based on demand.

“We know a lot of people are ready for a Las Vegas escape,” said Stephen Thayer, vice president and general manager of The Strat, in a Wednesday news release. “We hope to give everyone the Las Vegas trip of a lifetime, while also doing everything we can to ensure a safe, healthy stay.”

Caesars Entertainment Corp. spokesman Richard Broome said the company looks “forward to welcoming back guests and employees.”

“We are ready to provide our guests with a full Las Vegas experience with a collection of luxury amenities and unmatched service,” Wynn CEO Matt Maddox said in a Wednesday statement. 

Keith Smith, president and CEO of Boyd Gaming Corp., said the company is excited to resume operations at nine of its Nevada properties June 4 and expects to reopen most of its remaining properties by the end of June.

“As we continue to return to business, we will remain diligent in protecting the health and safety of every person who comes through our doors,” Smith said in a Wednesday statement.

‘A major milestone’

Sisolak’s announcement marks a major milestone for Las Vegas and the gaming industry, said Josh Swissman, founding partner of Las Vegas gaming and hospitality consulting firm The Strategy Organization.

He expects casino management across the valley will spend the next several days putting last-minute touches on their new operating procedures, many of which include restructured casino floors, staff training and the implementation of thermal cameras.

“Once their doors re-open on the 4th, operators are going to learn so much from those critical first few hours and days,” Swissman said via email. “There will undoubtedly be tweaks and fine-tuning made to their re-opening procedures as a result of what they will see. Marketers should be watching visitation volume and guest behavior closely, and should look to pivot quickly if changes to their marketing plans need to be made.”

Toni Repetti, an associate professor at UNLV’s College of Hospitality, said she thinks the announcement means Las Vegas can “start to come back toward normalcy.”

“I believe it will take some time to fully get there, but it’s a starting point,” she said. “This allows people to get back to work and tax revenues to start coming back into Nevada’s economy. The properties have great plans in place, and I believe will be (cautious) and very responsive as changes need to be made.”

Test out what’s working

Repetti also believes the slow reopening — in which operators reopen only select properties and amenities at first — allows operators to “test out what is and is not working.”

When asked if there was any concern about a second wave of the virus hitting Nevada after casinos reopen and draw in out-of-state tourists, Sisolak said he believes the properties’ various restrictions and protocols are “severe enough” to prevent that.

“I don’t see that happening,” he said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday night. “I’m confident Las Vegas is a safe place to come, and visitors will have a great time in a safe environment.”

After the Gaming Control Board’s Wednesday notice, casino operators have eight days to finish preparations before a June 4 reopening.

“Operators may have to change plans based on what they heard,” said Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors. “But there’s no doubt that gaming will make sure their employees as well as their guests are in the safest environment possible.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reiterated comments made by President and CEO Steve Hill on Friday, in which he said he believes the state, county, health leaders and resort partners have taken every step and precaution necessary to ensure a safe reopening.

“Employees and guests should feel confident, as evidenced by the many resort plans that have already been made public,” he said.

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

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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