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The impact of COVID-19 on the gambling industry in Vegas

Las Vegas
(© Katrina Brown –

Las Vegas finally re-opened to the public in June 2020 after a two-month closure. Casinos and restaurants welcomed the change with open arms, but it’s no secret that the gambling industry in Vegas has suffered from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The closures, which went into effect on March 17, have majorly hit the Las Vegas economy. As a city which heavily relies on tourists and the gaming industry to keep afloat, COVID-19 has struck a nerve. Many regular players simply switched their attention to playing at casinos and slots sites online instead. Now the business owners in Vegas are counting on a revival in the second half of 2020.

How has Vegas reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Following more than 70 days of closed resorts, empty restaurants and a deserted Strip, Las Vegas venues are now slowly falling back into the swing of things. Las Vegas casinos were losing millions with every day their doors remained locked, while the online gambling industry soared.

Back in May, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak revealed that the state was losing around $2 million in gambling-related taxes daily, while the tourism industry was predicted to lose up to $39 billion within the next 12 to 18 months.

Over 320,000 employees in the gambling industry were left out of work, and the full extent of the financial damage still remains largely unknown.

Since then, however, the industry has started to get back on its feet. When Gov Sisolak announced casinos could reopen on June 5, most went ahead right on schedule.

What conditions do casinos need to meet to stay open?

Businesses across the world have had to face a ‘new normal’ upon reopening, and casinos were no different. The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a health and safety plan back in June which Las Vegas casinos had to follow in order to reopen. Venues were also required to tell the board how they planned to keep their properties coronavirus-free zones.

 Casinos have undergone a number of huge changes:

  • Guests and staff must wear face coverings at all times
  • Guests and staff may be temperature checked before entering venues
  • Signage must be posted throughout venues to remind guests of proper hygiene
  • Venues must inform the local health authority if alerted to a COVID-19 case at their property
  • Venues should be thoroughly disinfected on a regular basis, and cards and chips should be swapped out regularly
  • Casino floor plans should create proper social distancing between guests
  • Seats must be limited at table games, with screens to separate guests and staff

How have casinos encouraged gamblers back?

Las Vegas casinos decided to welcome customers back with a few surprises. Over the course of their first weekend back, many Strip properties waived parking fees as an incentive for guests to take to the casino floor. The SAHARA waived resort fees on hotel stays until the end of June, saving guests $38 per night.

Others were seen handing out casino goodie bags. Staff at the Bellagio have been giving branded face masks, hand sanitizer, and tools to open doors and press elevator buttons without contact.

What about Las Vegas restaurants?

Gov Sisolak recently lifted restrictions on Nevada eateries, meaning many casino restaurants have now reopened. While takeaway is still being encouraged, restaurants can now fill venues to 50% of their maximum capacity, with six feet between tables. Some have opened with reduced hours to ensure time for thorough cleaning.

The governor recommended guests should dine outside where possible, and avoid groups of more than six to a table.

A small number of Nevada bars were ordered to close again on July 9, though it’s unlikely this will affect Las Vegas.

What impact has the coronavirus had on gambling turnover?

The true extent of the damage caused to Las Vegas casinos is still largely unknown, though we managed to get a glimpse of where the numbers were heading at the end of Q1.

Las Vegas Sands saw a 50% decline in revenue over Q1. Caesars was reportedly burning more than $9.3 million every day its casinos remained closed across the world, and had more than $2.6 billion in liquidity by the end of March.

Wynn Resorts saw a revenue decline of 42% in Q1, which is only expected to have worsened. MGM Resorts International, which owns 13 casinos in Vegas and dozens more across the US, was reportedly burning through $14.4 million every day.

Penn National was reportedly losing $6.4 million daily, while Red Rock Resorts was waving goodbye to $1.7 million every 24 hours.

We’re still waiting on Q2 earnings reports for 2020, which is when we’re likely to see just how much cash casinos have missed out on over the course of the pandemic.

augusta free press
augusta free press