Nevada Gov. Sisolak Weighs New Coronavirus Restrictions as Casino Operators Face Uncertainty

Posted on: November 18, 2020, 11:38h. 

Last updated on: November 19, 2020, 10:33h.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is intimating about new health restrictions on Nevada gaming properties as COVID-19 cases continue to escalate. Las Vegas casinos have yet to fully recover from earlier closings.

Coronavirus cases in Nevada continue to escalate
In June, a mask-wearing dealer waits for players before the reopening of the D Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. Gov. Steve Sisolak is weighing now whether he should impose new restrictions on casinos. (Image: John Locher/AP)

Without providing any specifics, the Democratic governor left open the possibility on Wednesday that he could once again shutter casinos. Experts worry about further financial impact to the casino industry, which is already stricken with weekday closures and revenue losses from months of closings.

“My administration is exploring all mitigation options available to get this under control,” Sisolak told reporters. “We will have to wait and see what happens next week.”

He says he is “attempting to protect our very fragile economy.” It is like “walking a tightrope to balance public health and economic impacts,” the governor explained.

With just days to go before Thanksgiving, Sisolak announced he will detail “very soon” the next steps to address the state’s surge. On Nov. 10, Sisolak encouraged Nevadans to remain at home as a way to curb the new wave in the outbreak. But for now, casinos remain open.

When asked about possible new restrictions, Stephen M. Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, where he also teaches economics, said Sisolak’s recent Stay at Home 2.0 directive “was light on specifics.

“If you can work from home, do so. Wear a mask at all times. In 14 days, reevaluation will occur,” Miller summarized the plan.

You probably need more than 14 days to see significant effects, since positive tests, hospitalizations, and deaths follow a dynamic path,” Miller told “If the curves continue to climb for the rest of the 14 days — six left — then we will probably see restrictions on gathering-together sectors — restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, casinos, and so on.”

When asked about casinos, Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, called the “rapid escalation of COVID-19 … unwelcome news.” He noted how travelers continue to be hesitant about boarding a plane, and there are “growing issues in California.” Both factors impact visitor counts in Nevada, he added.

We have to wait to see if the governor directs these new restrictions at the casino market or to other businesses,” Cabot told “Speculating on whether these enhanced restrictions will impact the tourist casinos is challenging to predict.”

Nationally, Stephen Miller urges a bipartisan fiscal relief plan to help businesses and workers in any sector which requires customers to gather together in public.

Miller further noted the economy recovered only “about one half of the loss of economic activity that occurred in March and April…. The recovery has slowed and could head South again.”

Anthony Cabot adds Nevada’s economy “is literally in the balance” and requires a successful rollout of the coronavirus vaccines.

Several States Begin to Shutter Casinos

Other states have begun closing gaming venues because of the surge in coronavirus cases. Illinois’ commercial casinos close starting on Friday. There is no reopening date yet.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that Michigan’s tribal and commercial casinos were to close as of Wednesday. New Mexico started to shutter tribal casinos on Monday.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia will be closed starting Friday until Jan. 1. On Thursday, Ohio kicked off a three-week retail curfew between 10 pm and 5 am. Massachusetts also has cut hours at its three commercial casinos.

Elsewhere, Atlantic City casinos remain open. But restaurants — including those in Atlantic City casinos — were ordered not to serve food or beverages indoors between 9 pm and 5 am.

Sisolak Recovers in Isolation at Home

On Friday, Sisolak tested positive for coronavirus. He said he had “mild head congestion.” He remains quarantined at his Carson City home.

He is not alone. On Wednesday, Nevada saw 1,665 new coronavirus cases and three more deaths.

In total, the pandemic has led to 125,459 cases and 1,947 deaths in Nevada. Also, this week the state saw the highest number of patients in hospitals because of the pandemic.

Faced with the surge, Alan Feldman, a former MGM Resorts International executive who now is affiliated with UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, recently told a key to boosting tourism in Las Vegas depends on how safe travelers feel.

“It is hard to imagine a world in which we don’t see more restrictive operating environments for US retail casinos across the next two quarters,” adds Chris Grove, a financial analyst with Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, during a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The only questions are how restrictive measures will be, and what specific form those measures will take.”