In the summer of 2020, after several months of COVID-19 pandemic closings, Vegas casinos reopened and, amid limitations and restrictions. The casinos continue to rebuild to their pre-COVID records and while those numbers haven’t yet been reached, the business climate is strong in Sin City.
Now, casino officials are worried that, once again, they might be facing a health crisis that could impact negatively on operations and send "their" in-house gamblers back to play Grande Vegas online casino USA online casino games from the seclusion of their homes.
New COVID variants, combined with flus and other respiratory viruses and infections, seem to be on the cusp of breaking out which, casino operators fear, could return the city to the dark days of the pandemic.
Vegas and the Pandemic
On March 17 2020 Governor Steve Sisolak issued a mandate to close all non-essential businesses in Nevada. The last time that the state’s casinos had closed had been 50 years previously, in 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated. Even the 9/11 terror attacks and the Great Recession of 2009 failed to close the casinos though there were many in the industry who expected those events to make the casinos shut.
It wasn’t just the casino floors that went dark. The hotels shut their doors, the airlines cut flights to close to zero and performers in acts that included Lady Gaga, David Copperfield, Rod Stewart, the Jonas Brothers and the Cirque du Soleil went home.
By the summer of 2021, with more information about the virus available, more people prepared to mask-up and the availability of vaccines, travel became more accessible and one of the most popular of those target-locations was Vegas.
Visitors found that, while a few casinos didn’t survive the closure, most did and they were up and running, ready to take bets and provide guests with a high-level entertainment experience. Today, business is reported as “strong” though the levels haven’t yet reached those of pre-March 2020.
Now the casinos are apprehensive again. Covid-19 cases are rising and other health concerns are emerging. They include flu viruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RVS), rhinoviruses and enteroviruses . Winter 2022-2023 may be bringing new challenges to Vegas.
The casinos are again measuring the need to prevent an outbreak of one of these (or any other) illnesses with their desire to encourage as many people as possible to visit the casinos, stay at the resorts, attend the performances and play on the gaming floor.
To this end, they are reviewing various policies and procedures.
When Gov. Sisolak allowed the casinos to reopen, he mandated mask-wearing, both for casino workers and for visitors. That regulation was suspended in February 2022 and while individual businesses can still make the decision to require masks if they so choose, no casinos in Las Vegas currently require indoor masking on their premises.
Many visitors do prefer to wear masks and the casinos support those individual decisions.
The casinos do not require guests to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or against any other flu or illness. The United States continues to require that non-US citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter the country but for people already in the country, both citizens and non-citizens, there are no limitations on non-vaccinated people regarding entering Vegas Casinos.
Casinos are enhancing their air quality flow with fans and HEPA filters to reduce the chances of individuals infecting one-another. These air filters, similar to those now on airplanes, have been installed in all areas of the casino resorts including in the hotel rooms.
Resort rooms are cleaned and disinfected on a more frequent basis than before. Staff don’t enter the rooms while guests are in the rooms to reduce incidences of contact.
Casino restaurants and buffets are open but the tables are more spread out and servers come in less contact with guests.
Vegas is focusing on recovery and, despite the worries about a resurgence of COVID cases and other winter viruses, the mood is generally optimistic. Caesar’s Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg told investors during his early-November earnings call, "October was the strongest month in the history of Las Vegas for Caesars,. We did over $200 million of EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation) in October, which is up double digits versus last year on a consolidated basis. October EBITDA for bricks and mortar is pacing double-digit percentage above last year's October despite having one fewer weekend day in the 2022 period."
Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts, has made similar comments. "I'll kick off in Las Vegas, where the team turned in a third quarter record with a $196 million of EBITDA or approximately $207 million adjusted for lower-than-normal holds. We saw broad-based strength across casino, hotel, food and beverage and retail, all well above third quarter 2021 levels despite the difficult year-over-year comps. The comparison to third quarter 2019 is even more impressive with our EBITDA more than doubling on a 36% increase in revenue."
Cautious, careful and guardedly optimistic seems to be the mood in Vegas these days.