MGM Resorts Interim CEO Says Las Vegas Can Safely Reopen in Matter of Weeks, Not Months

Posted on: May 12, 2020, 10:36h. 

Last updated on: May 12, 2020, 10:53h.

The top executive at MGM Resorts, the operator of the most casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, believes Sin City can safely reopen sometime later this month or in early June.

MGM Resorts Las Vegas coronavirus
MGM Resorts plans to get a couple of its Las Vegas casinos running again in the coming weeks. (Image: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Appearing on the third hour of the NBC TODAY show, MGM Interim CEO Bill Hornbuckle presented an optimistic view regarding when the Entertainment Capital of the World can again welcome guests.

If our counts [COVID-19 cases] stay reasonably low and things don’t escalate, we’ll be opening the casinos sometime late this month, first part of June,” Hornbuckle opined.

Every casino in Nevada has been closed since mid-March on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) order that all nonessential businesses suspend their operations. The governor’s stay-at-home order runs through Friday, May 15.

Some nonessential businesses will be permitted to reopen on that date under strict guidelines. But casinos will not be part of the first wave. As for the casinos, Sisolak is deferring to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to determine an appropriate time to allow the state’s economic lifeline to get back to work.

Controlled Environment

Hornbuckle, who became MGM interim CEO after Jim Murren expedited his planned resignation from the company to head Sisolak’s COVID-19 task force, believes Las Vegas casinos can carefully resume business under various safeguards.

The MGM boss says cleaning frequencies will be greatly increased, temperature screenings for employees will be conducted daily, and COVID-19 tests will be available.

Workers will be required to wear face masks, and guests will be encouraged to do so as well. Masks will be provided to those who do not have one. For guests that are within a six-foot distance from a worker – such as when sitting at a blackjack table – the gambler will be required to put on a face mask. Vacant gaming positions between gamblers will be enforced.

Handwashing stations will be on the casino floor, and the air will be circulated at twice the normal frequency – or 20 times per hour.

Hornbuckle says social distancing will be observed throughout MGM properties. “The key basis to open safely, and frankly slowly, is to occupy only about 25 percent of our spaces,” he explained.

Will Guests Return?

Hornbuckle said that the safety and well-being of guests and employees is paramount, but he wants to get the 63,000 MGM Resorts employees who have been furloughed back to work. The question is whether Las Vegas will quickly be embraced by travelers, or avoided on ongoing coronavirus concerns.

“I think there’s those who will come immediately, irrespective of the health concerns,” Hornbuckle said. “I think there’s a bucket of people that we need to convince that it’s safe, and there’s a third bucket of folks who I think will wait and see how this thing plays out and ultimately come and enjoy Las Vegas, probably next year.”

“Vegas done safely, I think, is still Vegas,” he concluded.