A few weeks ago, I was up early and I decided to take a drive around Las Vegas.
My journey led me to the south end of the Strip and at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday, things normally tend to be somewhat peaceful. But this time, it was even quieter than usual. Save for a stray jogger or two or a person waiting for a bus, it was eerily quiet on both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Mandalay Bay. The MGM Grand. Bellagio. Caesars Palace. The Flamingo. Treasure Island. Venetian. Wynn. Circus Circus. All dark and still.
This is what the coronavirus had wrought. It had rendered one of the world’s most vibrant cities dormant.
Countless times as I sheltered in place and had my flat screen on in the living room, I would watch commercial messages that proclaimed “We’ll get through this together” or “We’ll come out the other side” or “Better days are coming.” I would optimistically think they were right. Or at least I would hope they were correct with their predictions.
Be prepared for a different casino experienceâ€‹
Today, those prophecies begin to come true. Las Vegas is reopening, and perhaps reinventing itself as well. The lights have come back on. Many casinos opened their doors just after midnight welcoming back customers. Employees who have spent the last 2 1/2 months wondering what would become of their futures were returning to work.
It’s a welcome step, one which I hope leads to more and bigger ones. Ultimately, we want to see all the casinos back in business, all the hotel rooms filled, all the employees working. But it may take some time and a lot of patience on the industry’s part.
We know how important tourism is to Las Vegas, and in general, to Nevada. People from all over the world come to visit with the same goal — to have fun. They want to have the full “Vegas experience,” which in the summer means hanging out at a pool dayclub, going out for a nice dinner, seeing a show, doing some gambling and then hitting a nightclub.
But that may take a while. Remember, we’re still in Phase 2 of the Governor Steve Sisolak’s Reopen Nevada plan. The coronavirus has not disappeared. It is still lurking, waiting to attack. That means we’re still expected to wear a mask, social distance ourselves from one another, use hand sanitizer and protect ourselves.
Some of you will have no problem adjusting. Others may decide they’re not ready to be out and about in public, mask or not. It could be for medical reasons or simply personal preference. That’s your decision and far be it for me to tell you how to act. Your own safety should always be first and foremost.
The casinos also want you to feel safe and they’ve taken extraordinary steps to see that you are comfortable when you visit. We’ve been through the steps with you already so you know what the drill is.
When will I know Las Vegas is truly back? When I see long lines at the TSA checkpoints at McCarran International Airport. When there are lines to get a cab or a ride share from the airport to the hotel. When they’re standing two- or three-deep at the craps table cheering on a shooter who is on a hot run. When we have conventions and fans at hockey and football games.
Today is not that day. But that day is coming. We have to start somewhere on the road back to economic recovery. It has been a time unlike any in our lives. We are facing medical challenges, financial challenges along with social challenges as a city, as a state, as a nation and as a planet. We are being challenged in many different ways and history will remember our response.
The reopening of the casino industry in Las Vegas is a small part of that history. We have been through a lot as a community and we are looking to reclaim our lives.
Driving to a casino, parking our car (for free!), going to a slot machine, putting in our players’ club card, having a drink served to us, hopefully leaving with more money than when we came in, it’s all going to seem a bit strange but it’s going to feel wonderful.
Beating the dealer at blackjack. Sitting down with others at the poker table. Making a bet on a horse or a sporting event. That’s going to feel good too. Sitting and eating at a restaurant rather than swinging by for carry-out dinner will be a nice experience.
For those of you who plan to visit the Strip or your favorite neighborhood casino, have fun, stay safe and enjoy. You’ve earned it.
I have a feeling the next time I take a drive down the Strip, be it early or late, I won’t be alone. To tell you the truth, I won’t mind having the company.