A spike in the Delta variant of COVID-19 is turning up the heat for the gambling hub cities of Las Vegas in Nevada and Macau in China. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
COVID-19 summer spike in US and China
As the US and China enter the hottest months of the year, a surge in the Delta variant of COVID-19 spells trouble, or at least uncertainty, for the gambling hubs of Las Vegas and Macau.
Health officials in Chicago and Hawaii last week joined counterparts in LA County in California in warning residents against traveling to Las Vegas. Hawaii’s Kaua‘i District Health Office told residents via Facebook that Sin City “poses significant risks”:
Kaua’i authorities cited Vegas’s no-mask freedoms and popular activities such as gambling being housed indoors and therefore liable to crowding as “a set up for the spread of COVID-19.”
Vax drive in Macau gambling hotspot
Meanwhile, in China’s Special Administration Region (SAR) of Macau, health officials in the autonomous region famed for its gambling hub are warning of another surge in COVID-19 cases.
Wynn Macau went as far as to invite Macau Health Bureau medical staff to host a vaccination site at its Grand Theater Ballroom at Wynn Palace between July 19 and July 22. In a July 23 press release following the vax drive, Wynn Macau said:
Over 50% of Wynn team members have been vaccinated.”
Despite COVID-19 cases mushrooming in mainland China, analysts as Bernstein Research — contrary to Macau’s health officials stance — said the probability of an outbreak in Macau and causing a significant impact on travel or forces closures is low.
Sin City’s fightback strategy is vaccinations
Cities across the US have singled out Las Vegas as a destination to avoid amid the spike in COVID-19 Delta cases. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCA) is fighting back by adopting a strategy of working with health officials to establish vaccination centers at casinos, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Rather than throw its advertising budget at countering what health departments in California, Chicago, and Hawaii are saying about traveling to Vegas, the LVCA is keeping its messaging local. Its call to action is along the lines of telling residents to get vaccinated for both health reasons and for the sake of Sin City’s tourism economy.
The advertising agency tasked with positioning Sin City as the “premier destination for global travel” is Vegas-based R&R Partners. It took to Twitter earlier this month after the LVCA awarded it a multimillion-dollar “advertising agency of record” contract:
Fast-forward to an Associated Press report that Nevada recorded over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on July 23. This marks the first time the state has crossed the one-grand mark in over five months, presenting a new reality that any promotional efforts must take into account.
Partner and CEO of R&R Billy Vassiliadis acknowledged the challenge, saying: “We have spent more time in the last 18 months putting up and taking down advertising as we have been advertising, based on surges, numbers, advisories, capacity limits, masking limits and airline capacity issues.”
Cruel blow for recovering Vegas?
For other US cities to single out Las Vegas at a time when it’s bouncing back from COVID-19 seems particularly cruel, especially after it posted a record-breaking $1.23bn gaming win for May 2021.
Meetings and conventions are rolling out again. National Football League (NFL) franchise the Las Vegas Raiders and the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Vegas Golden Knights expect packed stadiums when their seasons begin in September and October, respectively.
Another blessing or curse for Vegas’s tourism and casino industry is that McCarran International Airport opened seven of its 14 E gates in terminal three over the weekend to cater for the influx of passengers.
Vassiliadis believes that visitors to Las Vegas who haven’t been vaccinated are “probably the ones that have been coming here all along.” Despite acknowledging that such visitors might not stop coming to Sin City regardless of warnings, he is looking on the bright side.
“We know that we’re doing everything we can to get people here vaccinated, and now employees are going to be masked,” Vassiliadis said. He added that some “properties have 90 percent vaccination rates among employees.”