In January, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States. By February, the first death was on the books. By March, cases of the coronavirus had appeared in all 50 U.S. states, and President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.

Citizens were urged to stay at home, and most non-essential businesses temporarily closed their doors. Casinos across America were forced to bend a knee to the growing pandemic, and even the mighty Las Vegas finally relented.

The legendary Vegas Strip went dark in the middle of March, and it’s remained that way for over 2 ½ months. Now it’s time for Sin City to make a comeback, despite the fact that new coronavirus infections are still being documented throughout the state of Nevada.

According to the state’s plan, gambling can officially resume at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. For owners and employees, this moment can’t come soon enough. In January and February, Vegas welcomed three-million visitors, but in April that number dropped by a whopping 97%.

A Message from the Governor

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak addressed reporters about the decision to reopen, striking a cautious-yet-optimistic tone.

“We welcome the visitors from across the country to come here, to have a good time, no different than they did previously, but we’re going to be cautious.”

He added that the decision was only made after careful consultation with health experts. Also, each casino and/or hotel must submit a plan to the Gaming Control Board before being allowed to open.

“I don’t think you’re going to find a safer place to come than Las Vegas by June 4, with the protocols we have put in place, with the testing we have put in place, with the contact tracing that will be in place by that time.”

Enhanced Safety Measures

In order to ensure the safety of patrons, casinos and hotels are enacting a number of safety protocols. These measures will vary from one establishment to another, but some of the most common include the following:

  • Every other pokie turned off to maintain social distancing.
  • Casinos operating at half capacity.
  • No more than three players at each gaming table.
  • Plexiglass shields will be in place at blackjack and craps tables.
  • Employees will be required to wear masks.
  • Masks are optional for players, although they’re mandatory at roulette tables.
  • Many resorts are encouraging mobile check-ins.
  • Hotel rooms can be entered with digital key technology on the guest’s smartphone.
  • Hand-washing and sanitizing stations will be present on the casino floor.

A crowd of people stand in line to enter a newly re-opened casino in Las Vegas.

Schedule for Reopening

Here’s a limited rundown of when some of the Las Vegas establishments will be opening their doors to customers:

Wednesday

  • The Fremont Street Experience mall will have a reopening party at 9 am.
  • That afternoon, casinos such as the Golden Nugget will start letting patrons come inside.

Thursday

  • Gambling is allowed just after the clock strikes midnight.
  • The Bellagio fountains will be turned back on.
  • Some of the casinos opening on Thursday include MGM Grand, Bellagio, New York – New York, Flamingo, The Signature, Caesars Palace, Circus Circus, Palazzo, Treasure Island, Encore, and Wynn Las Vegas.

Friday

  • Harrah’s will open its doors to punters.

Next Week

  • The Excalibur plans to open for business.

Lingering Concerns

Despite these new safety measures, not everyone is satisfied. Chief among them is the Culinary Union, which employs around 60,000 workers. They want regular testing for their members, as well as access to additional safety equipment.

According to a union spokesperson, “Culinary Union members and other casino workers will become frontline workers because we are the ones who will interact with guests daily and frequently. What happens if someone who arrives in Vegas asymptomatic develops symptoms here and decides to hole up in their room for a couple of days instead of asking for medical attention?”

Unanticipated Complications

To further complicate matters, Las Vegas is one of many American cities currently dealing with protests in the wake of the George Floyd murder. The incident occurred on May 25th, after now-fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

While most of the Sin City demonstrations have been largely peaceful, a couple of incidents on Monday led to the National Guard being called in to assist local law enforcement. The first involved the fatal shooting of an armed man near the federal courthouse. The second was the unprovoked shooting of a police officer outside the Circus Circus casino.

Additional Reading

For more details on COVID-19 and its impact on gambling, please read the following articles: