Major Las Vegas Casinos Shut Doors Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

Written By Derek Helling on March 16, 2020
Las Vegas casino closed open

Nevada health officials hope that any activity of the coronavirus happening in Las Vegas will in fact stay in Las Vegas. In that interest, many Las Vegas casinos have shut their doors to the public.

Casinos operated by Encore, MGM and Wynn Las Vegas are all closed due to the pandemic. The same goes for Wynn’s poker rooms as well.


What we know about the closure of Las Vegas casinos right now

As of right now, many of the gambling properties in Sin City are closed to the public. What’s uncertain, however, is when they could re-open.

MGM will not be taking hotel reservations at any of its properties before May 1. Additionally, a memo sent to employees said that they would maintain their benefits even if furloughed or laid off through June 30.

While it’s possible the gambling areas could re-open before then, there is no guarantee. The Centers for Disease Control have recommended that all gatherings of at least 50 people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks at minimum.

There is less information publicly available about timelines for Encore and Wynn properties. It might be safe to assume they won’t open back up before the calendar turns to May either, but even that may be too optimistic right now.

As of Sunday, facilities operated by Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and Red Rock Resorts had no plans to close their doors. Continuing to operate may not prove prudent, however.


Dangers of financial losses and transmission of the virus

The first and foremost concerns for casino operators in these circumstances are the health and safety of employees and guests. Unfortunately, casinos can be a breeding ground for the virus.

Even if casino patrons and staff aren’t in close proximity to each other, there are many hard surfaces in casinos like door handles, gambling chips and slot machines. The virus can live on these surfaces for days.

Additionally, the virus has struck hardest against people at least 60 years of age. That collaborates with the strongest age demographic for casino patrons as a recipe for disaster.

Even if casinos don’t opt to close for health reasons, there are financial concerns. Because many potential casino guests are likely deciding to shelter-in-place, it’s worth questioning whether keeping the doors open is worth the cost from an income-revenue perspective.

There is an argument to be made for keeping the doors open, however. Regardless of its validity, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition.


The downside to shutting it all down and how to lessen its impact

The legitimate cost of closing the doors to these casinos isn’t as much in the revenue that the casinos will lose as much as it is in the income potentially lost by thousands of hourly workers at the facilities. Casinos can mitigate that situation, however.

Some of these employees are represented by unions. For example, Culinary Union Local 226 has about 60,000 people on its rolls that work in Las Vegas gambling facilities.

That union is in continued talks with casino owners about how to lessen the impacts of lost wagers for its members. MGM has already taken a step in that direction by stating it will pay its full-time hourly workers for the next two weeks.

Such people may also be entitled to some relief from the state as well. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state’s unemployment insurance funds are healthy right now.

It’s unclear how long those workers could be furloughed, as this situation is very fluid right now. What is clear is that for the time being, the options for casino goers in Las Vegas are fewer.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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