Yes, dice will roll, cards will be dealt and slot machines will beckon. But poker rooms? Closed. Tourists returning to Las Vegas will see changes since gambling stopped in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. (May 22)
LAS VEGAS — By 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the day Las Vegas hotels and casinos were set to open, the Strip was still quiet.
After being closed for nearly three months, hotels and casinos were getting ready to open their doors. And the famous Bellagio fountains were about to start their first show since March 17, when the coronavirus crisis shut down the city, Nevada and the rest of the country.
Just a handful of tourists gathered on the normally packed sidewalk. Most didn’t now what time the fountains were reopening.
“This is what makes Vegas, Vegas,” Colleen Vosicky, a high school teacher from Las Vegas, said. She drove to the Strip for the reopening of the fountains and the free Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens because they are her favorite spots on the Strip. During the second show, set to Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” she screamed “That was awesome!”
Bellagio, a crown jewel on the Strip, opens at 10 a.m. Sister resorts New York-New York and MGM Grand open at 11 a.m.
The conservatory was open but had ropes for social distancing around its new display, “Japan Journey: Magic of Kansai.”
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Bellagio bellman Greg Barlow went back to work at 7 a.m. for the first time since March. “My couch is going to miss me,” he said.
Most casinos on the Strip are slated to open later Thursday morning. And Strip-goers could spot social distancing reminders everywhere.
In downtown Las Vegas, hotel-casinos opened a day before Strip hotels. Casinos were packed after they were allowed to open at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. But the Fremont Street Experience — a pedestrian mall with a giant overhead video canopy, tourist shops, outdoor bars and a zip line, which opened Wednesday morning — was deserted through sunset.
The shutdown of casinos, hotels and attractions, which began mid-March, has been devastating to the state’s visitor-dependent economy. Las Vegas counted just 106,900 visitors in April, down 97% percent. In January and February, before coronavirus crushed travel demand, Las Vegas welcomed more than 3 million visitors.
Elbow bumps, partitions, hand-washing stations
Bill Hornbuckle, president and acting CEO of MGM Resorts International, welcomed the first guests back to Bellagio as they entered the lobby. Then he elbow bumped fellow executives.
The hotel has doubled down on safety with lots of partitions separating video poker machines, blackjack and poker tables. Tables also had placards saying: “This table has been sanitized.”
Bellagio has doubled down on coronavirus precautions with partitions separating video poker machines, blackjack and poker tables. (Photo: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY)
Hand-washing stations were wedged next to slot machines on the casino floor, and visitors could also pick up free masks and gloves.
All employees at casino companies such as Wynn Resorts, MGM and Caesars Entertainment are required to wear masks at all times, and all hotels and casinos are required to have masks available for quests, who will be strongly encouraged to wear them.
Down the street at the Wynn, slot machines were set up for social distancing with middle machines out of service to separate gamblers.
By 10:30 a.m., the crowd at the Wynn was sparse, with just a few card tables occupied.
What other coronavirus measures are in place?
Nevada gaming authorities released a set of rules last week before Las Vegas Strip properties reopened.
All guests must have temperatures taken on arrival, and properties must have medical crews on site.
Occupancy limits in gaming areas will be cut in half, and properties must regularly disinfect gaming machines, chairs and other equipment.
All restaurants, bars and shops and the casino floor will have plenty of signs reminding guests about distancing.
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