Las Vegas Casinos Seek Road to Recovery After Year-Long Slump

Posted on: March 22, 2021, 03:11h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2021, 09:52h.

With hotel-casino openings this week and a surge in visitors, Las Vegas has the appearance of a gradual reawakening from its coronavirus-related economic nightmare. 

Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
Palm trees and soft desert hues adorn Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on Paradise Road. The hotel-casino opens on Thursday. (Image: Las Vegas Sun)

Two resorts on the Las Vegas Strip began operating seven days a week again on Monday. Those are Planet Hollywood Resort and The LINQ Hotel + Experience. 

Because of low midweek demand, both were accepting hotel guests only on weekends since the fall. Other resorts that stopped taking midweek reservations also have resumed seven-day operations, including the Palazzo at the Venetian Resort.

Added to this, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas is opening on Thursday at 6 pm in the renovated and rebranded Hard Rock location on Paradise Road, east of the Strip.

On the Strip, the under-construction Resorts World Las Vegas is on a hiring spree to fill 6,000 jobs before its anticipated summer opening.

These developments are giving casino officials hope for a tourism recovery after a year-long slump. The slump included an 11-week shutdown beginning last March. 

Pent-up Demand for Vegas

The opening round of play last weekend in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament is one contributing factor to an increase in visitor volume. The March Madness games are being played in Indiana, but the action traditionally brings crowds to Las Vegas. A recent increase in hotel room rates reflects this historical pattern. 

In addition, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) last week upped the gambling floor capacity at casinos from 35 percent to 50 percent. 

Sean McBurney of Caesars Entertainment said the increased capacity announcement gives encouragement that “Las Vegas will continue to rebound beyond expectations.” Caesars owns the LINQ and Planet Hollywood.

Also, the nationwide vaccination rollout is giving some travel-leery people a renewed sense of adventure. 

Everything is going in a better direction, and theres a lot of pent-up demand,” gaming consultant Debi Nutton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Circa Resort owner Derek Stevens even recently extended a welcome to spring breakers booted off the Miami area’s crowded beaches over COVID-19 concerns. Circa is the first hotel-casino built from the ground up in downtown Las Vegas in 40 years. It opened last year during the pandemic.

Conventions Vital to Las Vegas

This sense of optimism could be dampened, however, if conventions and international travelers are slow to return, or if the coronavirus and its variants aren’t controlled. One major convention, the World of Concrete, is set to take place this summer in Las Vegas.

Conventions that draw large numbers of people are seen as vital in filling up massive hotel towers in the normally slow middle of the week.

When people come for conventions, they often add a day to their trips,” Pam Robinson told the newspaper. She is chairwoman of the Commission on Tourisms recovery subcommittee.

The Wall Street Journal this month noted that gaming no longer is Las Vegas’ main revenue source. Since 1999, hotel-casinos have made more from conventions and from hotels, dining, and entertainment than from gambling.

This economic shift makes Las Vegas “all the more dependent on crowds to fill those venues,” the Wall Street Journal noted.

But Robinson is among those who have hope.

I think people are desperate to get out of their houses and go anywhere,” she said.