With Nevada shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Las Vegas casinos are hurting pretty bad. But relief may be in sight, as U.S. President Donald Trump has issued guidelines for states and some businesses to re-open, and operators like Wynn Resorts are hoping to show they are ready to go if Governor Steve Sisolak agrees to slowly re-open the state.
As Union Gaming analysts John DeCree and Sam Ghafir note, Trump’s plan to re-open the economy in phases could benefit casinos quickly. “We believe most casinos would fall into phase one as large venues and be permitted to reopen,” they wrote. “It is still unclear what distancing protocol for casinos would look like but could include reduced gaming capacity, greater spacing between active slot machines, fewer seats at live gaming tables, and masks for dealers.”
If phase one is permitted to begin on May 1, Wynn is hoping to show Governor Sisolak that they are ready to re-open responsibly. In a Health & Sanitation Program published to their website on April 19, CEO Matt Maddox outlined a careful plan to open with new guidelines, altered layouts, and personal protective equipment for all employees. He wrote:
“This plan presents what we will do to keep our guests, employees, and our community safe. Each operating department has its own customized set of procedures, even more detailed than the 20-page summary presented here. It relies on the best available science on sanitization methods in consultation with professional infectious disease experts from the best academic institutions in the country. We will continue to refine and update the plan as our experts provide us more advice. Our procedures are extensive and not applicable to all resorts in our industry.”
He notes that Nevada’s curve has flattened, and he thinks the worst may be over. With that in mind, he suggests Sisolak has a new curve to flatten. “Our economy is in a free fall,” he wrote. “Nevada will likely be one of the hardest hit states in the nation and suffer very high unemployment. It is imperative to flatten this curve so we can re-emerge in a safe, sustainable way.”
If Sisolak, a Democrat, agrees to follow Trump’s plan, Wynn Resorts would be allowed to re-open its casinos, but not bars or nightclubs, which are reserved for phases two and three. But even with just the casino re-opened, Union Gaming notes it could make a huge difference. “Even a partial opening in a few states could be material for the casino and gaming industry,” Decree and Ghafir wrote. “Right now, casinos across the entire country are shuttered completely and companies are burning cash. Even some revenue would help mitigate cash burn such as interest and rent expense to some degree.”
Even with the Macau-like steps Maddox is suggesting, it’s likely that casinos would still lose money hand over fist. When Macau resorts re-opened after their shutdown, potential customers afraid of the ongoing pandemic remained at home, ensuring continuing losses for the gaming industry.
Maddox isn’t the only one calling for Sisolak to re-open the economy. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has also asked the state’s chief executive to allow casinos to re-open, calling the total shutdown “total insanity, in my opinion.”