Las Vegas Temporarily Grinds to a Halt
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Las Vegas Temporarily Grinds to a Halt

Las Vegas Temporarily Grinds to a Halt

Las Vegas casinos have been closed for the first time since President John F. Kennedy’s funeral, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak triggered the closures last week when he ordered all non-essential businesses to close for 30 days.

The order, which went into effect at 12pm last Wednesday, included all casinos and gaming operations, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and restaurants.

At a news conference, Sisolak said, “This is affecting the lives of our citizens. People are dying. Every day that is delayed here, I’m losing a dozen people on the back end that are going to die as a result of this.” 

Nevada’s gambling taxes are second to sales taxes in the percentage of its annual budget.

MGM Resorts International was already ahead of the game as it announced it would temporarily suspend operations last Sunday across all Las Vegas properties. Casinos closed on Monday, with the resort’s restaurants following on Tuesday.

The company holds a large share of Vegas properties, operating the Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York, Excalibur, and Park MGM. 

The announcement came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended organizers cancel events or gatherings of more than 50 people for 8 weeks.

Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said the closures, which are in effect until “further notice,” are for the good of the company’s employees, guests, and communities.

He added, “It is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression. We will plan to reopen our resorts as soon as it (is) safe to do so and we will continue to support our employees, guests, and communities in every way that we can during this period of closure.”

MGM said it would soon release further information on timelines and other issues related to the closures.

In a letter addressed to MGM employees obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, full-time employees being furloughed or laid off were told they would be paid two weeks from their last day of work.

All employees on the company’s health plan will maintain their benefits until June 30. The company had already told employees on the previous Friday that it would begin furloughs and layoffs.

It added that salaried employees should expect to continue working “until further notice.”

“We deeply regret the strain it will cause families and our community partners, and we will do all we can to mitigate it,” the letter reads, signed by Murren. “When we do (reopen), we will be ready to welcome the world back to our properties.”

It is thought gamblers will be moving over to online casinos in a bid to pass the time in lockdown.

The Culinary Union, which holds around 60,000 Las Vegas workers on contract, has said it has new proposals on the table for further worker protections. 

In a statement, it said, “We are working with the employers to identify any job opportunities and make sure they are made available to laid-off workers, including available work in other classifications if needed and if [the] worker is qualified.”

MGM is also suspending operations at its Northfield Park property in Ohio, its casinos in Maryland and Massachusetts, and its gaming operations at MGM Grand Detroit. Gambling operators are currently offering large online bonuses to ensure people continue to support their businesses.

Governor Sisolak has made clear the state’s unemployment fund is healthy for now.

Non-essential businesses around the world are closing down as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Over 50,000 cases have been confirmed in the US, 278 in Nevada and over 200 in Clark County alone, where Las Vegas is located. 674 of the US cases have died, and there’s little end in sight of new cases.

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