In March, which seems like a million years ago, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued an order directing Las Vegas casinos to shut down operations until April 30th. As you might have guessed, this move was intended to stem the tide of COVID-19 within the state.

As the original deadline approaches, the famous Las Vegas Strip remains dormant. According to Anthony Curtis, blackjack legend and Las Vegas Advisor publisher, “The best word to describe it is surreal. It’s not a ghost town, there are cars on the streets and some foot and bike traffic, but the point gets driven home when you see empty (and barricaded) parking lots, the dry fountains at Caesars and Bellagio, the dormant Mirage volcano, etc.”

Of course, this leads to the question, “When will Vegas casinos reopen, and what new policies will be put in place?”

A Disastrous Interview

On Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman appeared on CNN for an interview with Anderson Cooper. The subject, of course, was the state of the city and the timetable for getting back to the business of gambling. It did not go well.

Goodman’s comments have been lambasted in the media ever since. You can watch the entire interview here, but here are a few of her more memorable quotes:

  • “Well, no, they’ll come because they love, we’ve got major league sports here.” (Goodman was asked if people would visit Vegas while casinos remained closed.)
  • “I’d love everything open because I think we’ve had viruses for years that have been here.”
  • “That’s up to them to figure out. I don’t run a casino.” When asked how reopened casinos would maintain social distancing policies.)
  • “No, this isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nevada.” (Goodman’s response after being shown a chart of how the coronavirus can quickly spread in a Chinese restaurant.)
  • “We offered to be a controlled group.” (Goodman seems to be saying that Vegas is willing to be a test case for what happens when a major city is opened back up.)

A More Cautious Approach

It didn’t take long for fellow politicians to distance themselves from Goodman’s comments. Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada was one of the first to respond, saying “We have to listen to the scientists. Businesses in Las Vegas will only be able to recover if we take this pandemic seriously. The Mayor does not represent the Las Vegas Strip, literally or figuratively.”

Governor Sisolak said that Las Vegas is “clearly not ready to reopen.” He also assured residents that he will not use them as a “control group.”

Some casino employees seem less-than-eager to return to work under the current conditions. According to Geoconda Arguello-Kline of the Culinary Workers Union, “The mayor’s statements are outrageous considering essential frontline workers have been dealing with the consequences of this crisis firsthand. Health and safety is our priority. Workers and guests have to be safe.”

Even late-night host and Las Vegas native Jimmy Kimmel chimed in on the subject. He called the Goodman interview “bonkers” and added “She is an embarrassment to my hometown.”

Las Vegas Strip empty during COVID-19 outbreak.

World Series of Poker Postponed

It was announced earlier this week that the 51st annual World Series of Poker event would be postponed. The tournament was slated to begin in Vegas on May 26th, with the iconic No Limit Hold’em Main Event on July 1st.

WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart issued the following statement, “We are committed to running the World Series of Poker this year but need additional time to proceed on our traditional scale while prioritizing guest and staff well-being.”

Reports indicate that organizers are hoping to move the event to the fall. However, the exact date and revised format have yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of online poker games. For example, a March online tournament from PokerStars drew record numbers for both prize pool and entrants.

Where Do They Go from Here?

One-in-ten Nevada residents have filed for unemployment, so it’s imperative that Vegas starts running again as soon as possible. Of course, nobody wants to jump the gun, especially when human lives are on the line.

When the casinos do open their doors, expect to see some changes. It’s likely that less players will be allowed at table games, and the recent policy of turning off every other pokie will probably remain in place. Masks and gloves should be common attire for employees, and customers may also be expected to add these items to their wardrobe.

Poker may be hit the hardest of all. It’s a game that thrives on numerous players, which makes social distancing efforts more difficult. Still, if anyone can figure out a safe way to gamble, it’s the fine men and women of Sin City.

Additional Reading

If you’d like to read more about the effects of COVID-19 on the world of gambling, please see the following: