Nevada casinos were legally allowed to reopen on Thursday, June 4 just after the clock struck midnight. Downtown Las Vegas and locals casinos opened as early as 12:01 a.m. The Vegas Strip followed after sunrise.
Demand was high for locals to get out of their houses after cooped up inside for just over two months while the city and state tried to slow the spread of coronavirus. Tourists started to trickle into the Vegas Strip casino as the day continued.
We took the day to explore some casinos on and off the Vegas Strip to see what’s new, different, and the same inside of the casinos. The Las Vegas experience may be different overall, but it’s also the same as ever in some ways.
Locals casinos vs. Vegas Strip casinos
There has always been a difference in the Vegas Strip properties to casinos around town. The experience in different parts of Las Vegas is still a contrast.
As the clock struck midnight on June 4, the casinos that opened in downtown Las Vegas welcomed the raucous crowd. Since the Fremont Street Experience was open before the casinos, some of the guests might have pre-gamed before heading inside.
Staff from Rampart Casino in Summerlin welcomed guests, who were mostly wearing face coverings, by name just after they did a quick temperature check at the front door. This was an impressive feat and the personal touch many Las Vegas locals appreciate from their nearby casinos.
Some of the casinos on the Vegas Strip had special reopening ceremonies. All the casinos opened their doors with the staff waiting by the entrances to cheer a mix of locals and tourists entering the casino for the first time in more than two months.
While the reopening of Las Vegas casinos was a big deal for many, it was pretty much business as usual. Guests could see the typical differences between properties in different locations.
To mask or not to mask
Guests are greeted with a touchless sanitizer station and a container with free single-use medical masks when walking into the Bellagio. While all casinos had ample sanitizer stations, not every property is offering complimentary face coverings.
Face coverings are required for all casino employees. However, they’re only recommended for guests. There was a fairly even split of mask-wearing guests at the five casinos we visited on the grand reopening of Las Vegas.
That said, there was a clear divide on who was wearing face coverings. Fewer younger guests wore face coverings than older guests. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise. According to the Center For Disease Control, older Americans are dying more rapidly than the youth from COVID-19.
There were more younger guests at the casinos on the Vegas Strip as well. Not coincidentally, there were fewer people wearing masks inside and outside of the casinos we visited. Guests at Las Vegas locals casinos tend to be older men and women and there were more guests inside the casinos wearing face coverings.
Everyone was respectful of those wearing or not wearing a mask. There was no “mask-shaming” like there might be at local retail establishments.
Additionally, most guests kept in line with social distancing practice. The lone exception was at the Bellagio Conservatory. Not everyone showed patience while visitors posed for selfies in the beautiful array of horticulture.
Temperature checks are different
Checking temperatures is an easy way for a casino to see if a guest might have some of the symptoms from COVID-19. This quick two-second check is done to keep symptomatic guests away from others.
Every casino is checking the temperature of guests as they enter. The temperature checks are different in all locations. The D in downtown Las Vegas has a system that looks similar to a metal detector. Red Rock, Suncoast, and Rampart each had a device that looks like a movie projector.
Casinos on the Vegas Strip have different less obstructive ways to check the temperature of guests. The Cosmopolitan and Bellagio aren’t checking the temperature of all guests visiting the property. The Bellagio will perform non-contact temperature checks with hotel guests who physically check-in.
The temperature checks aren’t invasive and only take a few seconds at most. That said, it’s certainly quicker to walk into casinos on the Vegas Strip since there’s no line to wait in before entering. The off-strip properties could have backups when the casinos are busier.
Plexiglass is less of a deal than it’s made out to be
There was a lot of chatter about casinos testing plexiglass barriers at tables and slot machines prior to reopening. These plastic protective barriers are not in every casino. In fact, most Las Vegas casinos aren’t using this protective measure.
We only visited one casino using plexiglass guards. Every table game and some slot machines at Bellagio is using the plexiglass barrier. New York-New York, MGM Grand, and Wynn are also using this form of protection.
The El Cortez is the only downtown Las Vegas casino using plexiglass. None of the locals casinos appear to have implemented plexiglass.
The plexiglass guards are pretty hideous to look at but guests playing craps and blackjack at Bellagio didn’t seem to mind. Early images from Wynn Las Vegas show the same thing.
The strangest use of plexiglass might be at the Baccarat Bar at Bellagio. The plexiglass separates the video poker machines. This wouldn’t be the most comfortable place for significant others to grab a drink and relax.
Table minimums are normal
Social distancing at table games can be a problem for casinos. There are fewer players at each game and one of the concerns was that casinos will have to increase the minimum bet in order to make money. That wasn’t the case when Las Vegas casinos reopened.
Table minimums at the various casinos were consistent with normal mid-week morning and afternoons. At Bellagio, the craps and blackjack games had a $15 minimum. Games like 3 Card Poker had the typical $10 minimum. Pai Gow Poker also had it’s normal $25 minimum bet. Minimum bets for this game tend to be higher since there are so many pushes.
One way to make up the difference with fewer seats at the blackjack table is to allow guests to play more than one hand at a time. The D in downtown Las Vegas is doing just that. Instead of having players double their minimum bet to play multiple hands, The D is encouraging blackjack players to play two hands at the same time for the same price.
Lasting impression on Vegas reopening
Vegas is back! Well, Vegas isn’t entirely back. Some restaurants and bars have limited hours or remain closed. Shows are dark through July 1 at a minimum. Pools are open but day clubs (and nightclubs) remain closed.
Even with some physical changes to the gaming floors, the casinos feel very similar. The attractions like Bellagio conservatory and fountains are back. The locals casinos smell as smokey as they did before casinos closed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
It was great to see how happy guests were returning to casinos once again. Everyone we crossed paths with was in a great mood and appeared to be enjoying Las Vegas like they used to. The extra cleaning and distancing should make concerned guests feel welcome. This was certainly the case as Las Vegas reopened casinos this week.