Nevada Casinos, Restaurants Must Cut Occupancy to 25 Percent for Three Weeks

Posted on: November 22, 2020, 08:21h. 

Last updated on: November 23, 2020, 11:55h.

Nevada gaming properties have to reduce their capacity from 50 to 25 percent starting at 12:01 am on Tuesday for three weeks. That’s under a new set of tougher coronavirus restrictions announced by Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) on Sunday. But he avoided another round of casino shutdowns under what Sisolak is calling a “pause.”

Sisolak will review progress to curb COVID-19 in three weeks
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak wears a mask as he asks all residents to do. He has announced tougher temporary coronavirus restrictions on casinos, bars, and restaurants. (Image KOLO)

Also, as of Tuesday, all restaurants and establishments that serve food – including those in casinos – cannot allow walk-in customers.

“People will have to make a reservation in order to get a table,” Sisolak said.  Also, whether outdoors or indoors, there cannot be more than four patrons per table.

If these latest efforts do not curb the continuing COVID-19 surge, Sisolak warned he may take “stronger action” on restaurants and bars, such as by prohibiting indoor dining. But he told reporters during a press conference, “I don’t want to impose further restrictions.”

Restrictions in Place for Thanksgiving

The reservation-only and lower-capacity policies for restaurants even apply on Thanksgiving, which falls on Thursday. Casinos must follow the 25 percent rule on their gaming floors on Thanksgiving, too.

That applies no matter how many tourists come to Las Vegas this holiday week, and early projections suggest many visitors will come despite health officials urging people not to travel. But tourist numbers this year are likely to be less than the 290,000 people who came last year for Thanksgiving in Las Vegas.

Before releasing the new restrictions, Sisolak said he spoke over the weekend with someone from most of the casino operators in the state. He hopes there will be compliance so fines and other actions will not be required.

If there are violations at casinos, the governor pointed out that the Nevada Gaming Control Board (GCB) has “great latitude” on what the “penalties will be.”

If they don’t follow them [the restrictions] they will suffer the consequences,” Sisolak warned. “We are in constant contact with the Gaming Control Board.”

“It’s time to act,” Sisolak added on Sunday. “I am not issuing a shutdown order.”

Earlier this year, Sisolak shut down casinos for months. Gaming properties are still hurting from the lost revenue and some have implemented weekday closures.

In an earlier effort 12 days ago, Sisolak urged Nevada residents to remain in their homes for two weeks in a directive called Stay at Home 2.0. But surges in the number of cases persisted.

“The spread is not necessarily tied to hotels and casinos,” Sisolak added about the uptick in COVID-19 cases. Nightclubs, day clubs, and brothels remain closed.

But even with the new restrictions, smoking continues to be allowed at most Nevada gaming properties. Opponents want the state to ban smoking at casinos because of health risks and note how smokers need to remove masks to smoke.

Bar, Restaurant Owners Say Cannot Survive at 25 Percent

Given that bars and restaurants throughout the state must follow the 25 percent capacity rule well into December, a reporter asked Sisolak about restaurant and bar owners who insist they cannot remain in business at such reduced occupancy. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is a financially critical one for most restaurants, nationally.

“A lot of these businesses can operate at 25 percent,” Sisolak responded. He also noted how restaurants can provide take-out, delivery, and curbside pickup.

Under his directives, face masks continue to be required, whether indoors or outside, if you are around someone who is not part of your household.

For Nevada residents, there also is now a requirement that no more than 10 people from no more than two households are permitted in private gatherings, even in someone’s home. Everyone must wear masks if more than one household is represented. This applies to Thanksgiving celebrations, too.

The new requirements are a direct result of the increasing number of coronavirus cases, including Sisolak, who recently tested positive for the virus. But after having some congestion and feeling tired, he says he now has no symptoms.

As of Sunday, there were 2,155 new COVID-19 cases in Nevada. Six more people died.

That brings the state’s total number of cases to 133,888 since the outbreak began. There have been 2,017 deaths.

COVID is filling up our hospital beds and that threatens all Nevadans,” Sisolak cautioned. “This is our biggest threat…. This cannot become our reality.”

Still, Sisolak remains positive for the future of Nevada, especially with vaccines on the horizon. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” the governor said.

Sisolak also pointed out that local governments could impose further coronavirus restrictions if they choose. On a statewide level, if the number of coronavirus cases lessens, he may direct that restrictions “loosen back to current” levels.

Casino Restrictions Debated on

In recent days, many people offered strong views on what to do with casinos as COVID-19 continues to impact the state.

“The casinos should be shut down [management doesn’t] give a crap about the health of … employees. So many employees have caught covid … and all [casino management] cares about is how much money they make,” Philip Addario posted on

But Martin Jubb pointed out on the site, “No other state relies on gaming and room taxes more than Nevada. Shuttering casinos would be financial suicide. Don’t expect the Feds to rain trillions on the [states] anytime soon.”

And John C. Moxon added about Sisolak that he “will go down as the man that killed [the] goose that lay the Golden egg. Vegas won’t survive this, it won’t come back for a decade. Meanwhile the city’s infrastructure will be transformed by the loss in taxes.”