Sisolak Rolls Back COVID-19 Restrictions on Nevada Casinos

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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday to roll back the COVID-19 restrictions imposed in November that limited casino capacity to 25%. The capacity limit will be lifted in phases starting tomorrow, February 15, and the gaming floors’ occupancy would be increased to 50% of their capacity given the improvement in the coronavirus cases. By May 1, state authorities plan to transfer the COVID-related discretion to the local authorities.

What Changes Will Take Place on Feb 15?

It would be a gradual reversal of the restrictions imposed by the Silver State’s authorities since November. On February 15, when the new changes will begin taking place, capacity at gaming floors will be relaxed to 35% from the existing 25%. Under Sisolak’s tentative schedule, this means more gamblers will be able to hit the casino floor on Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday. March 15 will see a further easing of restrictions from 35% to 50% capacity limits for casinos, the operational limit that was imposed before the governor announced his statewide “pause” in November.

Gov. Sisolak’s announcement causes a sigh of relief among Nevada’s casinos, including MGM Resorts International, whose spokesman said that the hospitality company couldn’t be more excited about resuming entertainment, enhancing occupancy limit. He said MGM would be looking forward to working closely with the Silver State to bring back large-scale conventions.

In addition to casinos, other places that will also see a similar jump in the capacity limit to 35% from the existing 25%, including places of worship, yoga studios, gyms, fitness studios, bowling alleys, arcades, racetracks, martial arts studios, and pool halls. Meanwhile, museums, zoos, libraries, art galleries, and aquariums will be allowed a 50% capacity limit.

While announcing the pandemic-related relaxation on Thursday, Sisolak said, “As we ease restrictions, we must follow the science and research, which states emphatically that closures to certain settings are more impactful in controlling disease transmission.” He said that his administration hopes that trends will continue to decrease if we follow all mitigation measures and added that “we must remain flexible as we have done all along.”

Responsibility Passing to Local Authorities

On May 1, 2021, the Silver State plans to devolve COVID-19 mitigation management responsibilities to the local authorities. After this date, local officials will collaborate with the Nevada Gaming Board and Nevada Gaming Commission to devise guidelines on casino capacity limits and coronavirus restrictions.

From now until May 1, indoor malls, retail stores, and community recreational centers will remain open with 50% of their usual limit. Spas, massage centers, hair salons, and barbershops, and other businesses providing cosmetic skin services will operate under strict social distancing measures, according to the new executive order. Also, certain high-risk businesses and activities – including night clubs and brothels – will remain closed until May 1.

“To reach this goal, counties will have to continuously demonstrate a decrease in COVID trends… and evidence that they can continue performing an adequate level,” the governor said.

How Have We Reached Here?

Last April, Sisolak ordered to shut down all casinos to prevent the contamination from COVID-19 that’s killed more than 471,100 Americans while infecting over 27 million. The closure inevitably rose to a jobless rate of 34%.

Additionally, the pandemic-led travel restrictions reduced Las Vegas from a global destination to a regional gambling hub relying on drive-in business from surrounding states. The visitation ebbed to an all-time low that Nevada has not seen since 1993. With conventions and concerts being canceled, the state will need some time to recover from the financial trouble afflicted by the COVID-19 throughout last year.

In 2019, the Silver State drew $12 billion in gambling revenue, which was also Nevada’s third-highest ever. The boom was checked by the virus that forced all non-essential businesses to shut down in March 2020. December was particularly a bad month for the state’s casinos, leading the GCB to blame COVID-19 for casino houses’ total winnings that amounted to no more than $7.8 billion for 2020, representing a 34.6% decrease year-over-year.

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