On May 18, a TV ad announced the arrival of a new Las Vegas. In it, a couple kisses at a bar. They hike in the desert. At night, illuminated by dazzling lights, they stroll in front of the Strip’s Bellagio fountains. Absent are the pool parties, glamorous crowds huddled over cr*ps tables, and roaring nightlife the destination was known for prior to its mid-March shuttering. “Things will be a little different,” says a voiceover, “A new Vegas for a new reality.”
This new reality will be revealed on June 4, when Nevada begins easing lockdown restrictions and the city, slowly, reopens. How much sin will remain in a city that now requires face masks, crowd control, and six feet of social distance, according to guidelines announced last week, is uncertain—but Fletch Brunelle, the vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Tourism Bureau (LVCTB), insists the essence of Vegas will be unchanged. “We will still be about adult freedom,” Brunelle says. “But we want guests to get their experience and stay safe at the same time.”© Courtesy of Caesars A pool at Caesars Palace
The sheer scale of the city makes Vegas’s reopening trickier than elsewhere, though. Here, crowds are as much a part of the city’s DNA as the neon signs. Fifty thousand visitors dropped into Caesars Palace daily before the pandemic, Caesars says, with 10,000 lingering on the casino floors alone. Last year, the city’s 156,000 hotel rooms enjoyed a near-90 percent occupancy rate, according to the LVCTB. To control crowds, entire swaths of Vegas will be drastically reimagined in this first phase of reopening; other elements will remain closed altogether.
Individual resorts and casinos have outlined their plans for ensuring guest safety upon reopening. When MGM Resorts International reopens four of its 14 properties on Las Vegas Boulevard next week, which include The Bellagio, New York New York, and The NoMad, its seven-point safety plan will have all employees in masks, floor attendants enforcing six feet of distance between guests and staff, and routine temperature checks for workers. At the Venetian, guests will find personal care kits packed with gloves, masks, and disinfectant wipes in their suites upon arrival. The Cosmopolitan, smack in the middle of the Strip, is transforming all self-service stands—the coffee bar, snack counters, breakfast buffets—into manned stations.
The most visible adjustment will be at casinos, though, which account for roughly 40 percent of Vegas’s total tourism dollars. Now required to cut their capacity in half, a number of gaming tables and slot machines will be removed. Only three individuals will be allowed at blackjack tables at any one time, dealers will wear masks, and players will not be allowed to touch their own cards. Casinos will also be introducing sanitizing technology like Elite Chip Care, which uses an antimicrobial cleanser to keep chips germ-free for sixty days. And don’t expect to lean over a roulette table to watch as a stranger wins big: According to the New York Times, crowds will be promptly broken up.
© Condé Nast Traveler The high-limit gaming room at The Cosmopolitan
As for the city’s massive events—well, those won’t be back anytime soon. In addition to restricting crowds, the current phase of the Las Vegas reopening bans all live entertainment, from Cirque du Soleil shows to concerts from the likes of Gwen Stefani and Afrojack. And there is no set date for when they may return. “We don’t know when it will be possible to host large scale events again,” said a spokesperson from Caesars, where Mariah Carey is usually a star attraction. Pool parties and all-you-can-eat buffets, another Vegas show pony, are also on hold. At the restaurants that do reopen on June 4, such as the upscale Restaurant Guy Savoy inside Caesars, tables will be removed and repositioned to cut capacity to 50 percent, and online or disposable menus will become mandatory. And though, technically, the main drag through the city—the Strip—will be open, crowds won’t be allowed to gather (and the buskers that draw them will also be banned under the live entertainment restrictions).
Despite the unique challenges of reopening Las Vegas, there’s a heightened sense of urgency. According to LVCTB, the leisure and hospitality industry is the number one economic driver in southern Nevada, and creates more than 40 percent of the region’s jobs. Last year, the city of Las Vegas raked in $58 billion in tourism dollars. (Los Angeles brought in $27 billion from tourism during the same time period, according to the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.) The now-mandated cuts in capacity mean an inevitable cut in profits. And while there is some talk that casinos will soften the blow by upping minimum bets, the tourism board has yet to share concrete details on how they plan to make up for such losses. “(For now) it’s about guests enjoying experiences they have not been able to have at home,” says Brunelle of LVCTB. Like so much in this uncertain era, it sounds like we’ll have to wait and see.
Note: FYI, a busker is a street musician or act of some kind.