The Las Vegas Strip is slowly awakening after a nearly 80-day slumber due to the coronavirus crisis.
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LAS VEGAS – More people will soon be allowed to gamble in The Strip’s casinos.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced he’s rolling back COVID-19 restrictions set in November that limited casino capacity to 25%. Starting on Feb. 15, the capacity limit will begin to roll back in phases.
Here’s what you need to know:
Gaming floors to jump to 35% capacity
On Feb. 15, the following places will jump from 25% capacity to 35%:
- Gaming floors
- Places of worship
- Fitness studios
- Yoga studios
- Martial arts studios,
- Bowling alleys,
- Pool halls
Meanwhile, libraries, museums, art galleries, aquariums and zoos will move to 50 percent capacity.
“As we ease restrictions, we must follow the science and studies, which states clearly and repeatedly that closures to certain settings are more impactful in reducing disease transmission,” Sisolak said during a Thursday update on Nevada’s COVID-19 response efforts. “While we are hopeful that trends will continue to decrease if all mitigation measures are followed, we must remain flexible – as we have done all along.”
Circa Resort & Casino, the first new downtown Las Vegas hotel-casino in four decades, is now open. (Photo: Ed Komenda / Reno Gazette Journal)
Restaurant reservations required no more
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars will be capped at 35% capacity – but outdoor dining will have no have a capacity limit.
Reservations will no longer be required on Feb. 15. The number of patrons allowed at a table with jump from 4 to 6, according to Sisolak.
The 165-foot Mega Bar inside Circa Resort & Casino. (Photo: Ed Komenda / Reno Gazette Journal)
Capacity will jump again in March
On March 15, businesses operating at 35% will be able to move to 50% capacity.
From now until May 1, retail stores, indoor malls and community recreational centers will remain at 50 percent.
Spas, massage establishments, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons other businesses that provide cosmetic skin services will continue to operate under strict social distancing requirements, according to Sisolak.
Night clubs, strip clubs to stay closed
Additionally, certain high-risk businesses and activities – adult entertainment establishment, nightclubs and day clubs, and brothels, will remain closed until at least May 1.
That’s the date the state hopes to transition COVID-19 mitigation management responsibility to local authorities, Sisolak said.
“In order to reach this goal, counties will have from now through the end of April to demonstrate a decrease in COVID trends, adequate hospital capacity within their region, and evidence that they can continue performing an adequate level,” Sisolak said.
But even when the state transitions response efforts to local management, statewide protocols will remain in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 – including the mask mandate and social distancing requirements.
After the statewide shutdown of Nevada casinos to stem the spread of COVID-19, the Las Vegas Strip sat empty on March 20, 2020. (Photo: Ed Komenda / Reno Gazette Journal)
Walking a tightrope
Sisolak for months has said he’s walking a tight rope trying to keep people safe while keeping the tourist-dependent economy from taking further hits.
His latest move signals a shift in this country’s gambling and entertainment capitol – Nevada’s central economic engine.
In April, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all casinos to close to stem the virus that’s killed over 471,000 Americans and infected over 27 million. With the closure of The Strip and other Nevada businesses, Las Vegas’ jobless rate jumped to 34%.
COVID-19 travel fallout has transformed Las Vegas from a global destination to a regional gambling hub dependent on drive-in business from California and Arizona. Casinos downsized, operating hours atrophied – and thousands were left without jobs.
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Visitation is now down to levels the state hasn’t seen since 1993. With concerts and conventions cancelled and hotel towers closed, Nevada will remain in financial trouble until COVID-19 restrictions are rolled back and travelers regain their confidence.
In 2019, Nevada generated $12 billion in gambling revenue. It was the first time in 12 years that the state reached that mark – and only the third time ever.
December was a historically bad month for Nevada casinos at the end of a historically bad year. The state Gaming Control Board blamed the coronavirus pandemic for results showing that casino house winnings totaled $7.8 billion for 2020, down 34.6% from the previous year and the lowest for a calendar year since 1997.
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Casinos hopeful about spring rollback
Executives at major casino companies are optimistic Nevada will roll back more restrictions in coming months.
“March may hopefully begin to feel like October if we’re lucky,” MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in an earnings call Wednesday. “I’m hoping by end of spring, as we go into June, we’ll see yet another significant rollback as we get ready for events.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to mount across Nevada. As of Thursday morning, health officials logged 286,387 confirmed cases and 4,637 deaths statewide.
Contributing: Associated Press.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.
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