"Money Is Running Out" – Vegas Struggles To Survive Shutdown

Vegas is in trouble. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak tweeted Monday he will be reopening the state's economy in the near term. Sisolak knows if stay-at-home public health orders are extended, casinos, restaurants, and other entertainment businesses might not survive.

Vegas' McCarran International Airport, a gauge on tourism flow to the strip, recorded a massive halving of tourists by plane in March when compared with March 2019. 

That's a staggering drop in tourism by flight to the strip, and it's devastating for the region as nearly 1 in 3 jobs in the state are tied to tourism.

Coronavirus lockdowns in the state, along with international flight restrictions, have pushed Vegas to a near breaking point.

AP News says the strip is usually "busy, always noisy, never sleeps… you can now hear birds chirping."

"It's crazy," said Chris Morehouse, an Elvis impersonator, who compares the shutdown to "the end of the world."

We noted above, the state is hugely tourism sensitive, with 1 in 3 jobs tied to tourism, leisure, hospitality, and the gambling industry. Workers are set to lose $7.7 billion in wages and salaries over the next year and a half if the tourism industry stays shut between one to three months.

Nearly 343,000 residents in the state have filed for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks. This means Nevada's unemployment rate is right around 17%. As for Vegas, the unemployment rate could be significantly higher. Already, folks in the city have protested being out of work, reported NBC Vegas

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman calls the statewide shutdown of casinos "total insanity."

"For heaven's sake," Goodman recently said, "being closed is killing us already, and killing Las Vegas, our industry, our convention and tourism business that we have all worked so hard to build."

AP notes that casino closures are likely to extend into May, with no concrete timeline of reopening.

A Kimberly Ireland,49, a bell desk dispatcher at the Mirage casino-resort who was recently laid off, said she's living off savings and unemployment.

"Money is running out. It's getting low for the majority of us," Ireland said.

She hopes work will reopen, but understands Vegas is not ready to return back to normal:

"Everybody wants to get back to business. Everybody wants to get back to semi-normal," she said. "I just don't think it's safe."

And with companies barely offering hazard pay and medical supplies, many workers are figuring out that collecting unemployment in a pandemic is much safer than working. 

Victor Chicas, a restaurant server in the Mandalay Bay casino-hotel, already facing financial hardships before the pandemic, including insurmountable debts and foreclosure on his home, had to cut his cable and internet and drain his pool to lower his electricity bill.

And what's worse is that MGM Resorts International just canceled bookings at its Las Vegas hotels for between May 1 and 21, suggesting that closures will continue through next month. The earliest reservations are on June 1 through MGM's website, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, and Station Casinos are other resorts that will start accepting reservations starting on May 15.

And the difficult question that no one wants to answer is how the hell do casinos reopen in an era of social distancing?

Vegas casinos are mass ordering "rona guards."

Marriot International is "rolling out enhanced technologies over the next few months, including electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel."

Like the airline industry, Vegas could take years to recover.