Nevada’s current 25 percent occupancy limit on gaming floors, bars, and restaurants will remain in place until Jan. 15, 2021, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced on Sunday.
Beyond that, the capacity limits at casino showrooms will stay in effect for the next month, too. That limits attendance in showrooms to no more than 50 in the audience or 25 percent capacity, whichever number is lower.
Casino supporters have complained the restrictions make it difficult for casino operators, guests, workers, and performers. Already, several Las Vegas resort casinos were forced to voluntarily close hotels in the middle of the week because of lower occupancy.
The 25 percent restriction, called a “pause” by the governor, was put into effect before Thanksgiving. It lasted for three weeks, and is set to expire on Tuesday.
Before Jan. 15, Sisolak will review the number of COVID-19 cases. He did not rule out implementing tougher restrictions then, but did not identify what options are under consideration.
The state’s casinos and other non-essential businesses were shuttered for several months starting in March as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19. It led to high unemployment, Sisolak recalled.
Later in the year, Sisolak directed that restaurants, gaming floors, and bars would limit capacity to 50 percent of occupancy. Then came the 25 percent cap.
During Sunday’s press conference, Sisolak pointed out that “each of the [casino] operators makes their own decisions.” They are also governed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB), which makes gambling “the most regulated industry in the state,” he added.
What makes Southern Nevada unique is that tourism and hospitality is the “only big industry,” the governor said. “If we take that away, the bottom falls out.”
He said he is not worried about what happens to the stock price of casino companies during the pandemic. But he is concerned about the “hundreds of thousands” of employees who work at gaming properties and how they might be impacted by any potential shutdown or impacted by the virus, Sisolak said.
He pointed out another shutdown would lead to losing $52 million a month in gaming revenues. Sisolak has not voiced support for another shutdown of casinos.
New Year’s Eve Visitors Must Follow Safeguards
When asked if it is safe for out-of-state residents to travel to Nevada for the upcoming holidays, especially New Year’s Eve, Sisolak repeated basic COVID-19 precautions: wear a mask, avoid large gatherings, and practice social distancing.
If visitors do not want to follow these precautions, Sisolak advises them “they should probably stay home…. We need everyone to do their part.”
As of Sunday, Nevada officials reported 2,882 new coronavirus cases. There were 19 additional deaths tied to the virus.
The total number of cases seen in the state since the outbreak began is 186,833. The total number of deaths in Nevada is 2,539.
The state will get the first shipments of coronavirus vaccine early this week. More will come in the first two quarters of next year.
The Las Vegas Strip will not make a strong comeback until the vaccine is readily available and air travel resumes,” Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, told Casino.org.
He added that extending restrictions through mid-January “will have some impact on weekend business. But I do not think it will be substantial otherwise.” He points out “Las Vegas is substantially under capacity during the week.”
Las Vegas Is Not a Christmas Destination
When asked about extending the 25 percent restriction, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a professor of finance at Boston College who closely follows gambling trends, told Casino.org “it will clearly have a negative impact.”
But if there is a time of year that Vegas might be able to withstand the loss it would be the coming of the Christmas season,” McGowan said. “Vegas is not a Christmas venue.”
The restrictions are put into place “to ensure the safety of the clientele. But clearly, the casino operators would not be pleased if this lockdown was still in place around the Super Bowl,” McGowan said. That falls on Feb. 7.
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