Nevada’s governor has ordered the state’s casinos to halt all gaming operations as of midnight Tuesday to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Sisolak held a press conference at which he announced a 30-day shutdown of all casinos and other ‘nonessential businesses’, which includes restaurants and bars but exempts gas stations, pharmacies, banks and grocery stores. Sisolak already ordered the closure of schools and state offices last weekend.
All gaming operations across the state must halt at midnight, while the rest of the casinos’ operations must wrap up by noon Wednesday. Sisolak (pictured far right) got a little testy with a followup question regarding whether some non-casino gaming machines might be allowed to continue operating, telling people to “stop looking for a loophole” and repeating that “every gaming device across the state” must cease operations by midnight Tuesday.
Sisolak said the state government would re-evaluate the situation at the end of the 30-day period to determine if the shutdown would be extended. Sisolak said he knew that people might think he was overreacting to the pandemic, but he said this was an “appropriate and informed reaction” because at present “there is no treatment” for COVID-19.
Casinos account for over 450k jobs in Nevada and tourism accounts for nearly 40% of the state’s general fund revenue. But Sisolak said “if your business brings groups of people together, it should not be open.” As such, “this is not the time for casinos to remain open.”
Earlier in the day, casino operator Las Vegas Sands announced it was shutting its Strip properties, joining MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts, who made a similar announcement over the weekend. Other operators, including Caesars Entertainment and Station Casinos, had opted to remain open while imposing social distancing requirements and scheduling frequent wipe-downs of all slot machines.
Nevada has confirmed 55 coronavirus cases to date and reported its first COVID-19 death on Monday. Local media covering Sisolak’s Tuesday announcement were required to maintain a six-foot space between cameras.
Nevada joins a near unanimous shutdown of casino operations across American gaming states, including both commercial and tribal gaming operators. Only a fortunate few states, most notably New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have full-spectrum regulated online gambling markets to help offset the loss of land-based gaming revenue.
Calls are mounting for the federal government to include the gaming industry in its plans to offer affected industries a financial package to help cushion their landing. On Tuesday, the National Indian Gaming Association asked Congress for $18b to help many of their communities deal with the loss of their primary source of income.