Nevada casinos brace for impact as 78-day COVID-19 closure ends


Nevada’s casinos are just hours away from reopening their doors, and even civil unrest in the streets can’t dampen their enthusiasm.

Having been cleared by the governor to reopen to the public as of June 4, some Nevada casinos plan to take that timeline literally, throwing open their doors as of 12:01am Thursday to end their 78-day COVID-19 shutdown as soon as possible.

If other states are any judge, gamblers who dare cross a casino threshold will find that the new health and safety precautions take a bit of getting used to, but they’ll adjust. All Nevada venues are limited to operating at 50% capacity, meaning those casinos that have been lucky enough to book a high volume of room reservations may be forced to limit walk-in guests.

The civil unrest that has gripped the nation following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police won’t derail the casino relaunch timeline, but the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority decided to pull a planned 30-second television commercial promoting the relaunch, citing “current events.”

In the short term, Vegas is expected to rely on what MGM Resorts CEO Jim Hornbuckle recently called “drive-in traffic,” i.e. individuals driving in from neighboring states, until revelers from further afield get comfortable climbing into jet aircraft again. Airlines are reporting increased bookings to Vegas since last week’s reopening announcement, but no one expects things to be back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. 

Still, casino operators have reported better than expected advance bookings, including MGM, which announced that it would open the MGM Grand on Thursday in addition to its previously announced plans to open the Bellagio and New York New York, while the Excalibur is slated to follow on June 11.

Among the other surprises that MGM may spring a little further down the road is the market’s first officially smoke-free property. In April, the company surveyed the top-tier members of its Mlife Rewards program regarding what changes they’d like to see when the casinos reopened, and one of those questions was how customers would react to a casino that offered “enforcement of non-smoking policies throughout the resort.”  

On Wednesday, Vital Vegas reported that Park MGM (the venue formerly known as Monte Carlo) was rumored to have been selected as the testing ground for MGM’s smoke-free experiment. The report claimed the policy would be implemented on a ‘temporary’ basis in order to gauge the reaction, but could become the property’s unique selling point if the reaction is positive.