There’s no denying that the global coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on the travel and gaming industry. While we patiently (or not-so-patiently!) wait for the cruise lines to begin operations once again, players are taking advantage of some once-in-a-lifetime deals to other destinations to get their gaming fix—most notably LAS VEGAS! That’s right, Vegas is back, baby!! For a real-world account of what’s happening in Sin City, we asked folks who actually experienced the action firsthand to give their impressions.
According to the Nevada COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force, Clark County bars, taverns, and wineries have all been allowed to reopen at 50% capacity. That said, some restrictions are still in place. Most entertainment and live music have been suspended, but some venues may have a solitary pianist playing softly in the background. URComped’s Katie Vanpool just returned from Las Vegas and explains that the bars at the nightclubs “require you to either buy a table or pay a minimum (prices were off the charts), and they won’t let you go up to other tables.” Of course, for those looking for a social environment, this may not be the experience they were hoping for. But at least this is a temporary situation, as the city navigates the coronavirus.
Some other restrictions on the strip include wearing masks and social distancing. Masks are still a requirement in the casinos and bars/ restaurants unless you are eating and drinking. Sharena Azucena explains that “many restaurants are still closed. If there is one you favor, I would check before you go. Since they limit seating, I would recommend reservations if possible.” Capacity is a major issue with restaurant seating right now. Because the state has mandated that the restaurants operate at half capacity, some of the most popular spots may be filled when you choose to go. Preplanning is the key to getting into the restaurants you most want to visit. There are still plenty of food and beverage options, though.
In the casinos, masks and social distancing are commonplace. Cherie Ganesh stayed at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino the last week of September and found that all the casinos she visited had masks and hand sanitizer available. She explains that masks are being enforced, and even witnessed patrons being escorted out of the building for failure to comply. Slot machines are being placed in configurations that allow for social distancing, and care is being taken to assure that players at the gaming tables are safe. Ms. Ganesh says that the “MLife folks had been moved to one end of the cashier cages so they’d be better protected behind the glass. The Blackjack tables had plexiglass dividers and three-player limits, crap tables were limited to smaller numbers of players, and no one could just stand around near any of the table games or the slot machines.”
Mike Rentz visited the Strip over Labor Day Weekend and explains that “not having the bars open really stunk. It was hard to hang out and ‘party’ if you weren’t gambling. Most casinos were understaffed for gaming, especially on the Strip. With reduced capacity at tables, it was really hard to find spots to actually play at times.” That said, Mr. Rentz laments that “It’s still Vegas. We had a blast.”
Several URComped members commented that table minimums seem to have increased since the casinos have reopened. Kurt “Cruise Vacations” Budde says that when he visited Las Vegas back in July, he noticed that machines were tight and said that he also experienced that when he went to the “locals” casinos as well. Staci Caplan is in the city now and states that the weekdays are “quiet, with most hotels and casinos now open.” She notes that the weekends bring in the “younger crowd” and the Strip fills up a bit more.
URComped members have noted that mask wearing and social distancing are very prevalent at the hotel pools. Joseph Sykes shares that masks are being enforced unless you are actually in the water or are drinking. Best have a cocktail handy because this mandate could make for some pretty interesting suntan lines!! Cherie Ganesh says that she had no trouble finding lounge chairs without having to pay a fee at the New York-New York hotel pool area.
Several travelers commented on the price and availability of Uber and Lyft. While the Strip was decidedly less crowded, transportation from these services seems to be a bit more expensive than in the past. That said, traffic is much lighter than usual. Many travelers are taking advantage of the lighter traffic by renting scooters or golf carts to get around the Strip.
Las Vegas is, and always will be, a Mecca for those of us who love to gamble. The 5-star restaurants, luxury resort hotels, and world-class entertainment are all part of the experience we expect from the moment our plane lands until we reach liftoff and head back home. Like most resort destinations, Vegas has suffered heavy losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the casinos and resorts have made extensive changes to comply with the new health and safety protocols, in order to keep all of us, and their staff, safe.
Live entertainment will return to the Strip. The restaurants will once again be at capacity, and you will be able to dance the night away at your favorite club.Every day, the restrictions become less stringent, bringing the city back to its glorious self. As our guest commentators have expressed, even though things aren’t “the same,” it is still Las Vegas. And Las Vegas will always be fabulous!