Things are looking up for Las Vegas casinos, with a new Nevada Gaming Control Board plan allowing them to ease capacity limits to 80% from next month. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Some good news for Vegas
In the latest easing of coronavirus measures in Las Vegas, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) will allow casinos to increase capacity limits to 80% from May 1.
The state gaming regulator announced new guidelines for Nevada’s 16 counties and one independent city on Friday. It took to Twitter to publicize its three-page “Emergency Directive 044,” setting out new capacity restriction plans across the state:
Under that directive, Clark County casinos will move from 50% to 80% capacity from the beginning of next month. The NGCB will also permit casinos to relax social distancing measures, reducing the mandatory distance between customers to three feet instead of six. Mask requirements will remain in place however.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Las Vegas casinos have endured restrictions since the end of a 78-day period of COVID-19 forced closures in June last year. They last increased occupancy on March 15, easing limits to 50%. Now, operators finally have a route back to full capacity, but this is reliant on vaccination efforts across Clark County.
Las Vegas can return to full capacity once at least 60% of county residents have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine
According to the NGCB’s plan, approved by county commissioners on Tuesday, casinos in Las Vegas can return to full capacity once at least 60% of county residents have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. The regulator will also remove all social distancing measures at this point.
On Friday, Clark County Commission chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick announced that 47% of residents had received their vaccinations. She estimated that this level would reach 50% by the end of the following week.
This aligns with the roadmap of Governor Steve Sisolak, who last month told reporters he expects all of Nevada’s counties to open at 100% capacity by June 1. The governor is ceding control over restrictions to local county governments from May, but the NGCB will still maintain autonomy over casinos.
While Clark County businesses will remain restricted at 80% next month, casinos in other areas of Nevada will ease to full capacity. A total of 12 counties will return to 100% occupancy limits under the NGCB’s plan. Among others, casinos in Elko County, Lincoln County, and Douglas County will all be free from restrictions.
Preparations well underway
Now provided with a solid roadmap out of restrictions, casinos have begun preparing for a return to normal levels of business under the bright lights of Las Vegas.
The NGCB has made clear that employee vaccinations are absolutely vital for Nevada’s casinos to return to full capacity. In a memo last month, the Board told operators it would only increase floor occupancy when “licensees have taken measurable and material steps to vaccinate.”
an offer of cash bonuses for vaccinations at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
As a result, multiple Las Vegas-based operators have opened their own employee vaccination programs, including MGM Resorts International, Station Casinos, and Las Vegas Sands. Operators have used various approaches to convince workers to take their shots, even including an offer of cash bonuses for vaccinations at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
In preparation for the return of customers, operators have also initiated a new hiring drive with various job fairs held across the region. As reported by the Las Vegas Review- Journal, MGM Resorts hired “100 people on the spot” at one of its events last month, while Circus Circus Hotel, Ellis Island Hotel, and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas are all actively recruiting.
Speaking last month, Randy Goldberg, vice president of talent acquistion strategy for MGM, said the new recruitment drive should help “ease staffing shortages.” He explained that customer traffic had returned to Vegas faster than most had anticipated. “I don’t think anyone expected the ramp-up to happen this quickly,” Goldberg commented.