Vegas casinos cleared to open bars as COVID-19 infections fall


Las Vegas casinos continue to expand their list of pandemic-acceptable amenities, even as data increasingly suggests that casinos may be serving as COVID-19 transmission centers.

Last week, Nevada’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force cleared bars, pubs and bar areas within restaurants in Clark County to reopen effective Sunday (20) at 11:59pm. Watering holes in the county, which includes Las Vegas, are limited to 50% capacity and their dance floors and pool tables must remain out of action for the time being.

The decision came despite Clark County continuing to meet two of the Task Force’s three elevated disease transmission criteria, although its test positivity rate fell 2.6 points from the previous week to 8.6%. The decision means bars will be open for Monday’s hotly anticipated first Las Vegas Raiders home game at the new Allegiant Stadium, although fans won’t be allowed to attend in person.

Bars aren’t the only Vegas staple returning to action. Penn National Gaming’s Tropicana casino, the company’s only Vegas Strip property, reopened to the public last Thursday at 10am, after delaying its original plan to reopen September 1.  

Wynn Resorts announced last Friday that the poker room at its Wynn Las Vegas property would reopen at noon on Wednesday, September 30. The number of tables has been reduced and each table will seat only eight players – who must wear masks – separated by plexiglass dividers.

The Strip’s ongoing rebirth isn’t all positive, as Julia Peek, deputy administrator of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, revealed last week. Peek said 26% of COVID-19 infections in Clark County had visited a hotel, motel or resort in the 30 days prior to infection.

Peek cautioned that this data didn’t prove that these individuals were exposed to COVID-19 at the hospitality venues, but it suggested more information was needed to determine if these venues were serving as pandemic petri dishes. For instance, only 12% of infected individuals reported having visited restaurants or grocery stores over the past 30 days.

The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) reported last week that 304 infections may have originated at the Cosmopolitan casino in the month of August, nearly than twice the 153 traced back to the number-two suspected hot spot, MGM’s Bellagio.

In fact, the top-five possible infection hubs were casinos, including the MGM Grand (133), Venetian (89) and Caesars Palace (86). The Clark County Detention Center was the highest non-gaming venue, coming in sixth with 82 infections.

Wynn Resorts recently announced that 548 of its staff had tested positive for COVID-19 since its venues reopened in mid-June. The infections represent 3.6% of the over 15k tests conducted, a better rate than the state enjoys as a whole, which Wynn took as evidence supporting its anti-pandemic strategies.

Nevada reported 385 new infections last Friday (19), a higher number than the average from the pre-shutdown spring but significantly lower than the nearly 1,500 cases the state was reporting in mid-July.