With COVID-19 Cases Rising, Gov. Sisolak Allows Nevada Casinos To Remain Open

Written By Marc Meltzer on November 23, 2020 - Last Updated on January 21, 2021

On Sunday evening, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced new capacity limits and restrictions to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Sisolak did not order a complete shutdown of nonessential businesses, including casinos, as he did earlier this year. Rather, he emphasized the significance of keeping them open.

“My goal is to aggressively try to attack this spread while maintaining some portion of our economy and our daily life.”

The new restrictions will begin Tuesday, a day after the governor introduces an emergency directive. Sisolak and his team will monitor the spread of coronavirus in Nevada over the next three weeks. After this period, he could extend, amend or end the new restrictions for businesses, residents and visitors.

New casino restrictions for Nevada casinos

The new restrictions will reduce capacity in most venues, limit public gatherings, and increase mask use. The attempted return to normalcy for casinos will be slowed down but not stopped entirely.

Nevada currently stands as a red zone for this global pandemic. During his press conference, Sisolak repeatedly stated that the virus is spreading like wildfire, noting that 24% of all COVID-19 cases in the Silver State arose in November.

That said, casinos — already slow during weekdays — will not undergo many changes.

Properties will reduce their respective capacities from 50% to 25% of legal occupancy. Once again, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) will implement and enforce these requirements. This will be the first major task for new chairman J. Brin Gibson.

Sisolak said that casinos that do not comply with the capacity limits will suffer consequences. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the NGCB has acted on only nine complaints against casino licensees since late July.

The governor has already spoken with most casino operators about the new restrictions.

Restaurants and shows at Nevada casinos also affected

Everyone in Nevada must now wear a face covering at all times, including outside. Sisolak encourages everyone to keep a mask on even while eating and drinking. Masks should only be removed while taking a bite or a drink.

Restaurants, including those in casinos, will also reduce capacity limits from 50% to 25%. All indoor dining will require a reservation. There will also be a limit to how many people can dine together. For at least the next three weeks, no more than four people can sit at the same table.

Shows recently started to return to casinos, but some might not remain open with the new restrictions. Like casinos and restaurants, the capacity for shows will decrease from 50% to 25%. The new directive reduces the total capacity of public gatherings from 250 to 50 people.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, MGM Resorts will shut down shows during the three-week period. Caesars Entertainment is looking for a way to keep its shows running. An outside vendor operates “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, which will continue with performances.

What about hotels in Nevada?

The new capacity restrictions shouldn’t have much of an effect on casinos Monday through Thursday. The hotels at the following casinos are already closed due to low midweek demand:

  • Encore
  • The Linq
  • Mandalay Bay (Four Season and Delano are open)
  • The Mirage
  • The Palazzo
  • Park MGM (NoMad is open)
  • Planet Hollywood

Without live entertainment or conventions, more midweek closures could occur regardless of the new capacity restrictions.

The weekends are another story. During its most recent earnings call, Caesars touted having 90% capacity in its Las Vegas hotels during the weekend. The new capacity limits could decrease how many hotel rooms casino operators can sell.

Having a high weekend hotel occupancy is possible because hotel rooms are only part of the overall building capacity. Casinos can track overall capacity with surveillance and accounting systems already in place. The NGCB will keep tabs to ensure the new restrictions are being followed.

No coronavirus shutdown yet in Nevada

Sisolak ordered Nevada casinos to close in mid-March to help slow the spread of coronavirus. They were allowed to reopen June 4, but the impact of those closures on the Nevada economy will last for years.

The new restrictions go into place so that Nevada doesn’t have to shut down all nonessential businesses again. That said, the first shutdown did help to reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the Silver State.

If the new restrictions don’t help slow the spread of coronavirus over the next three weeks, it’s possible that Nevada casinos and other nonessential businesses could see another shutdown before the year is over.

Photo by AP / Chase Stevens
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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He's the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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