Vegas Casinos Will Reopen - but Major Restrictions Remain in Place
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Vegas Casinos Will Reopen - but Major Restrictions Remain in Place

Vegas Casinos Will Reopen - but Major Restrictions Remain in Place

Rumors the Las Vegas Strip could reopen next month may prove to be accurate, although it’s certain to be a while until its casinos are running at full speed again.

Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board introduced strict measures to ensure any casinos that reopened could do so safely, following the Covid-19 outbreak.

This welcome step comes after Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox said operators could start to reopen by June.

Guidelines for Las Vegas casinos include keeping social distancing in place, limiting client occupancy to no more than 50%--thus allowing no proximity of bettors--and a considerable thinning out of gaming machines, allowing them to be better spaced. In-depth cleaning procedures are also cited, and these must be adhered to, stemming from any feared spread of the virus post-reopening. 

One Las Vegas company has even been creating clear protective screens for use at tables and in between gaming machines, and it is rumored thermal cameras could be used to scan customers upon entering venues.

A Wall Street analyst told Fox News how operators are likely to face an additional ‘double whammy’ of lower revenues and higher marketing costs, in addition to all the onerous expenses incurred in meeting these new protective guidelines.

And even when the venues themselves do their utmost, there’s a question of how the clients will even get there, and of how to facilitate and encourage this without breaking essential rules.

New York-based Barry Jonas said: “The challenge with the Strip is that it’s a destination market. A lot of your VIPs, per se, are coming in on an airplane.”

The lack of permitted air travel in the current situation could severely damage the Strip, which made $18.7 billion in revenue last year. The nighttime sector could struggle even further as social distancing rules continue to hamper the very basis on which many businesses operate. 

In true casino fashion, little suppresses them for long, however, and Casey Clark, senior vice president of strategic communications at the American Gaming Association said casinos are now preparing to reopen safely. 

The new strategies, he said, would “prioritize health and safety while providing a quality patron experience and enabling (the) industry’s employees to safely return to work”.

It was back on March 18 when the Las Vegas casinos were forced to shut their doors, the first time since President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963.

As shown in the S&P 500, the Casinos & Gaming sub-sector--including Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts--has seen its values decimated of late. 2020 has recorded a dramatic fall to $52.3 billion, down some 44%.

As much as the operators desire it, reopening won’t save them, according to Jonas. It is thought table games will see a large drop in revenue over the coming months as the number of betting positions is reduced from a maximum of seven down to just two, and this factor alone, Jonas added, could ‘potentially hurt the whole experience’ of some games.

Gone will be the vibrant buzz of the gaming floor, the hollering and back-slapping around a crowded craps table, and the group-based camaraderie that accompanies much of casino play. Now, it will be something of a solitary pastime.  

Slot machines, comprising some 50% of most casinos’ earnings, will also suffer when the number of gaming machines out on the floor is halved.

So, what’s next for casinos? 

Jonas predicts casinos will need to change their offer somewhat, shifting their attention toward their big-spending VIP customers, offering free rooms, charter flights, and special promotions such as table games bonuses. Big spenders, bespoke deals, and enhancing the VIP experience could see some temporary relief for casinos, but it’s surely a question of the same issues rearing their heads; how much fun is a VIP casino night with social distancing in place?

Jonas added there could also be a bigger shift toward online gambling which has already proved a threat toward land-based resorts. 

Jonas said: “I think for sure you're going to see more of a shift to online. The question becomes, does this form a catalyst for states to legalize sports betting and then more sports betting, online poker, blackjack, kind of i-gaming if you will. And we think it does.”

Online casinos could well grow in popularity during this period of transition as people continue to practice social distancing. 

Casino bosses, however, are remaining positive. Corey Sanders, the chief financial officer of MGM Resorts International said the operator expects some ‘pent-up demand’ in the coming months as lockdown is gradually eased.

 


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