(UPDATE: Mask were required when indoors again from July 30th, 2021 – February 10, 2022. The mask mandate is no longer in effect)
Vegas is back. Kind of.
The cab driver on my way from the airport said that Vegas was back. And on the surface, that’s believable. There are a lot of people on the Strip. Shows are reopening and most restaurants and clubs are open. The airport is crowded. That’s about as far as it goes. Even though the airport was busy, they have only 1 taxi line open and there wasn’t much of a wait when I landed.
Many restaurants have reopened, but not all of them. The ones that are open tend to require reservations. The lineup I saw waiting to get in to Catch at Aria right when they opened was comical. I considered going to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars, but all reservations were sold out for the duration of my last trip. Late night dining options are very limited (and you can expect long lines at the ones that are). It seems like more restaurants are reopening each week, though (like Fleur at Mandalay Bay reopening July 26th).
As a general rule, masks are not required if you are vaccinated.
If everyone is being honest, it looks like over 90% of the people in Las Vegas are vaccinated. I don’t believe that, though. I did get a few looks for wearing mine. Most staff members wore masks, but not all of them. I am guessing that some vaccinated staff may not be required to wear masks. I wasn’t happy that the Cosmo room service person came right into my room without a masks, though.
In 2020, land-based casinos all around the world were forced to shut down activities, to comply with lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. After a few months, these venues were authorized to resume operations under severe restrictions, including limited capacity and distancing protocols.
But now, as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccinations increase, several Las Vegas casinos are loosening these restrictions; casino floors are set to return to a 50% occupancy limit and many venues on The Strip returned to 24-hour operations.
In Canada, the Ontario provincial government allowed casinos to reopen, and gambling venues in Alberta are expected to do so by the end of March. European casinos and gambling venues also benefited from the rise in vaccinations, as countries such as Poland already restarted operations. In the United Kingdom, the largest gambling market in Europe, sports betting venues and casinos are expected to reopen in April and May, respectively.
Casinos in Las Vegas had been operating at a limited 25% capacity since November, when they were allowed to increase the occupancy to 35% in February. But Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak recently signed an emergency directive loosening the state’s health restrictions, allowing casinos to increase capacity from 35% to 50%. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, this led to big crowds flooding the Las Vegas Strip and casino floors in the first weekend following the announcement.
MGM properties have every other slot machine turned off or disabled. At table games, they have plexiglas dividers between each player space as well as between the players and the dealer. They have similar plexiglas barriers in the poker room. I still felt the poker room was too crowded.
Caesars on the other hand has every slot machine on. They are expecting players to not use a machine next to another player, but they are not being proactive. I saw multiple instances of players playing and sitting next to each other, so that isn’t working. Caesars doesn’t have barriers at tables or in the poker room, either. They have removed seats to limit the number of players at each game. Caesars seems to be taking a more staff oriented approach. They have dealers wearing plastic face shields in addition to masks, but there is nothing separating players..
MGM has also installed hand washing stations around the casinos and has stands with free disposable masks and hand sanitizer near the entrances. I saw hand sanitizer available at Caesars properties, but not to the same extent as the MGM properties.
Check in lines and hotel lobbies were also very different. The Bellagio had a lot of space available to keep distanced while in the check in line. MGM Grand also had a lot of space. Neither place was crowded when I visited. The Flamingo check in line was a mess. They did create some space to keep the waiting line away from the check in counter, but the line continued across the lobby and down the hallway. People in line were much closer than 6 feet. There were no markings to indicate where people should stand in the extended line. It was a hazardous situation. It also created a road block if you were trying to get from the casino to the Spa Tower.
We each have our own personal risk tolerances. The situations at Caesars Palace and the Flamingo made me very uncomfortable. I was happy that I was not staying at either place. It would have made for a very stressful trip for me. Unless things change, I cannot recommend staying or playing at a Caesars property in Las Vegas until things get better.
On the other hand, my stay at the Bellagio was really good and relatively comfortable given the situation. I would readily stay at the Bellagio or another MGM property during the pandemic if necessary.
UPDATED June 30, 2020 Las Vegas casinos and hotels will be able to reopen after the COVID-19 closures starting June 4, 2020. Everything isn’t going to instantly reopen and try to get back to normal, though. I plan to do a series of posts on the topic in the coming days. I am going to start with the most pressing one.