Las Vegas reopened the doors of its famous casinos Thursday after eleven weeks of closure imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has severely affected a city largely dependent on the tourism industry.
Casters and penguin bandits came back to life at the twelfth stroke of midnight and inveterate or curious gamers thronged the gaming rooms, like at the “D”, who had offered free plane tickets to several hundred tourists to celebrate the long-awaited recovery.
“We’re hot! You can see the smiles on all faces, “casino owner Derek Stevens told reporters. “Everyone is enthusiastic,” beamed the boss of the “D”.
On the famous Las Vegas Strip, almost deserted since mid-March, casinos and hotels had to wait until sunrise to find some animation. The Bellagio re-lit its spectacular fountains shortly before the reopening of the casino, in front of which dozens of tourists and locals lined up in the early morning.
The resumption of activity is a blessing for Las Vegas, whose economy was idling for lack of tourism and where the unemployment rate exploded, reaching up to 33.5% in April.
“Just a matter of time”
At Bellagio, as in other establishments reopening their doors to the public, the sanitary measures are strict: the game rooms have reduced their capacity by half and the blackjack tables do not accommodate more than three players at a time to maintain distances de rigueur. Plexiglass walls further separate the players and the croupiers, who handle regularly disinfected tokens.
Despite these precautions, “Vegas is still Vegas”, in the words of AFP MGM Resorts CEO William Hornbuckle.
“Over time, we will return to full capacity,” said the boss of the largest casino operator in Las Vegas, which has a dozen establishments on the Strip, such as the Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New. York.
In the immediate future, one out of two slot machines is disconnected to ensure the physical distance of the players, who are “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask even if they are not obliged to, unlike the staff.
At Treasure Island, a nearby casino, Alecia Perez, 29, came specially Thursday morning from Los Angeles with her companion and young child.
“We have an infant, that’s one of the reasons why we came now, we thought there wouldn’t be too many people,” she told AFP.
“It’s another kind of vacation, we’re not looking to party.”
The grand clubs and shows that made Las Vegas famous are still banned due to the COVID-19 epidemic, and many casinos take the temperature of visitors at the entrance.
“It will be a little scary at first, of course. And I’m not going to make as much money as usual, ”admits Luis Rosales, who is preparing to resume service at the Venetian hotel.
“It’s just going to be a matter of time,” he said, looking forward to “being able to go back to the bars now, go back to play, whatever we missed.”
In addition to the coronavirus, Las Vegas has also been rocked in recent days by demonstrations against the death of George Floyd and police brutality. A city police officer was seriously injured with a gunshot and a protester was killed after lifting a gun at the police in another incident.