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Editor’s note: This article has been updated with the latest information.
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As we approach summer and states start to ease restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, casinos are betting they can get gamblers back to the tables. New restrictions for dealing with coronavirus concerns will be in play.
Atlantic City is the premier gambling destination in the northeastern United States and attracts tourists from all over the country. It was hit particularly hard by the recession – which decimated the disposable income of the area’s middle class – but is still a must visit for gambling fans. 2 Las Vegas, U.S.A.
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Here’s a look at some of the plans to reopen major gambling meccas across the U.S. and the plans that may be in the cards this summer:
In This Post
Sin City shut down in mid-March, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. However, Gov. Steve Sisolak will reopen the state’s casinos on June 4 as long as the trending data regarding coronavirus infections remains consistent.
Ahead of the holiday weekend, I wanted to announce to all Nevadans that I will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, May 26, to discuss the next phase in Nevada’s reopening plan. As long as our data stays consistent, I expect to announce a Phase 2 date for reopening. pic.twitter.com/PzOW3nezWr
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) May 22, 2020
Read our full guide: A changed Las Vegas prepares to reopen
The shutdown impacted the state’s tourism industry, which directly or indirectly powers one in three jobs in the state. As a result of the quarantine, Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 28.2%.
Regulations will limit casinos to 50% occupancy upon reopening, and operators must implement social-distancing and stringent cleaning measures, according to The Wall Street Journal. Many of the largest brands on the Strip, such as MGM Resorts, have stated that they plan to reopen their properties in phases, based on demand.
In order to reopen to 50% under Phase Two protocols, resorts must submit individual safety plans to the Gaming Control Board in addition to attaining current safety protocols. Recently, MGM Resorts released its “Seven-Point Safety Plan” that it will follow when states allow properties to reopen. The plan gives us a glimpse at how dramatically different casinos will look once they reopen. For starters, say goodbye to buffet-style meals and crowded card tables and hello to temperature checks and face masks.
Las Vegas hotels are becoming bookable for this summer in hopes of reopening in June. However, the selections are limited at the moment.
For instance, you can book a night at Caesars Palace from $99 a night in June.© The Points Guy
Glass shields separate players at Gila River Casino at Wild Horse Pass on the packed reopening day. @reviewjournal#OpenAmerica#gaming#casino#coronaviruspic.twitter.com/e8wH2Nhvlo
— Elizabeth P. Brumley (@EliPagePhoto) May 15, 2020
Arizona’s stay-at-home order expired on Friday May 15, and a few casinos reopened that same day including Gila River’s Lone Butte, Vee Quiva, and Wild Horse Pass casinos, Fort McDowell, and Harrah’s Ak-Chin Pavilion. As you can see from the social media post above, new partitions were installed between gambling ‘stations.’ There are lots of rules patrons are supposed to be following including wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing though it’s unclear how closely those measures are being enforced. Apparently there were lines and big crowds on opening day.
Arizona casinos open Friday with lines to get in. I have a neighbor that is fully prepared to bring his lawn chair out the night before when Vegas opens, like it’s a Black Friday sale. #Vegashttps://t.co/iPmCt1Bnqa
— Bill Krackomberger (@BillKrackman) May 15, 2020
Based on a promotional email received by The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly, Atlantic City is planning to reopen to gamblers this summer.
Many Atlantic City hotels such as the Borgata, Hard Rock, Ocean Resort and Harrah’s have opened up bookings starting June 1, 2020. However, the floors will look much different (and emptier) with new guidelines and restrictions. For instance, many restaurants may remain closed and those that are open will likely be operating at significantly reduced capacity. As for shows, no word yet if those will be allowed or if there will be enough demand for them to carry on.
Although some hotels are now bookable starting on June 1, official hard opening dates have not been announced, pending word from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. This means that if you make a reservation now and the hotel has not reopened, your reservation will automatically be canceled and refunded.
In the meantime, hotels are offering reduced rates to draw in guests. For instance, you can book a weeknight stay at many of the properties for as low as $63 throughout the summer.© The Points Guy
Weekend pricing is not quite as low, starting at $168 per night.© The Points Guy
Additionally, if you’re a member of any of the casino rewards programs, you may be targeted for a special “welcome back” offer like one Brian Kelly received.
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Caesars Entertainment announced that it would begin to open up many of its properties across the U.S. in phases on its Q1 conference call. Lake Tahoe, where two Caesars resorts are located (on the Nevada side), was one of the destinations mentioned on the call.
Nevada entered into a phased reopening it’s calling the “road to recovery,” but the going is slow.
In preparation, casinos and hotels in Lake Tahoe are offering deals to bring in guests. For instance, you can book a night at Harveys Lake Tahoe from $100 a night in mid-June. It’s not clear how much of the property will be reopened by then.© The Points Guy
Nearby, the state of California is approaching reopening business by region. Currently, counties in northern California will be among the first in the state to reopen, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom. So if you’re headed to Lake Tahoe, just be aware that not all of the areas on the California side will be open.
Not too far from Lake Tahoe is Reno, Nevada’s second-largest gambling city.
Nevada has begun phase one of reopening, which includes restaurants, many of which are inside casinos. These restaurants will be allowed to reopen under strict new regulations, but the casino floor will remain closed. When casinos do get the green light, however, occupancy will be reduced by 50% and social-distancing rules will be enforced.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Casinos in Deadwood reopened their doors on May 7 after the City Commission voted to reopen the businesses under new federal, state and local protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the American Gaming Association’s COVID-19 Casino Tracker, 11 of the 52 casinos open nationwide are in Deadwood. The other 41 are tribal-owned casinos. So far, local sources are reporting that the reopenings have gone well.
“We were about 15% or 20% higher than a typical weekend business, which is significant,” said Caleb Arceneaux, CEO of Liv Hospitality in an interview with CNBC.
Casinos have also reopened in nearby states like Montana.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Gov. John Bel Edward announced on May 11 that Louisiana casinos would be allowed to open their floors on May 15 at a reduced capacity of 25%. Additionally, new regulations will be enforced by the Gaming Control Board including making sanitation stations available around the casinos, requiring face masks and implementing social-distancing rules.
Although casinos have gotten the green light from the governor, Mayor LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans will not allow casinos to reopen in her city. In fact, Cantrell will be enforcing stricter rules largely aimed at stopping the reopening of major businesses, like Harrah’s Casino, according to The Times-Picayune.
In other parts of the state, however, casinos are going ahead with reopening plans. For instance, L’Auberge Lake Charles announced that it will reopen on May 18 under new guidelines. Some of the changes guests will notice are lowered capacity, reduced gaming and limited restaurant options.
The Gulf Coast of Mississippi
Casinos in Mississippi planned to reopen on May 21. The Mississippi Gaming Commission sent out new regulations that casinos will be required to follow, which include limiting occupancy by 50% and barring certain events and tournaments, like VIP Poker Rooms.
Additionally, casinos will have to limit the points of entry so that guests can be properly screened before entering. Part of the screening will include a questionnaire and patrons will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer and wear masks while on the property. There will also be a limit on number of players allowed at table games and six-foot distancing must be maintained at slot machines.
Currently, the going rate for a night at Harrah’s Gulf Coast is about $125 a night throughout June.© The Points Guy
People are eager to get out of the house. The success of reopened casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota, proves that. However, long-term success will depend on guests and casinos continuing to follow new safety protocols.
It will be a much slower reopening for big cities like Las Vegas, but casino owners are working their way toward making it safer for everyone.
Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.
Gambling City Near Vegas
Featured photo by Toms Auzins/robertharding/Getty Images.
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