There is still no reopening date for the Las Vegas Strip.
The casinos along that normally overbusy thoroughfare are waiting for the go-ahead from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
But in the meantime, nearly three dozen Strip properties have taken a very on-brand gamble by opening reservations for as soon as May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day.
Wynn Las Vegas wants to welcome back its first guests on May 26, the day after the holiday. Other casinos such as the Venetian and Bellagio are banking on a prudent-by-comparison reopening date of June 1.
Whenever the roulette wheels resume spinning, there’s only one sure wager: Things in Vegas will be a lot different than before the pandemic.
In recent days, three major casino resort operators—Wynn, MGM Resorts (whose properties include Bellagio, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, and New York-New York), and Caesars Entertainment (which also includes Bally’s and Harrah’s)—have released exhaustive reopening plans designed to meet public health standards and reassure customers.
Many of the new hygiene and social distancing measures are similar to what’s being adopted at hotels across the country: mobile check-in and keyless room entry, employees in masks, newly installed hand sanitizer stations, and banished buffets at onsite restaurants.
Additionally, many Vegas hotels will limit the number of available guest rooms, check temperatures with thermal imaging cameras, and cap the number of people allowed on the premises at a time.
Bill Hornbuckle, acting president and CEO of MGM Resorts International, told the Los Angeles Times, “We’re only going to let presumably 25–30% of the normal visitation in the door.”
And that’s not the only reason casinos may feel lonelier than before.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board wants no more than six people at craps tables and no more than three playing blackjack at a time.
The casinos’ reopening plans promise to keep every other slot machine empty. And employees will shoo away crowds from gathering to cheer on a gambler on a hot streak.
Staffers will also be given the tedious task of frequently sanitizing chips, playing cards, and dice—reportedly after each roll at Caesars, which sounds like a punishment Dante would dream up for inveterate gamblers in his Inferno.
Off the casino floor, restaurants and pool areas will be reconfigured so that diners and swimmers can remain at least six feet away from others.
As for Cirque du Soleil shows, concerts, and other live performances, they’ll remain closed until late summer at least.
So all in all, the first visitors to the newly reopened Vegas can expect the Strip’s version of a toned-down experience: smaller crowds, no live entertainment, more hand sanitizer, and socially distanced slots.
If you still want to take your chances after that vision, experts say hotel prices should be temptingly affordable due to the drop-off in demand and the eagerness of hotel owners to attract business.
Of course, the dire financial situation hasn’t persuaded them to drop their pernicious resort fees, so don’t get your hopes up too high.