‘Safety’ Seen As Crucial in Getting Tourists Back to Las Vegas: Casino Experts

The key to boosting tourism in Las Vegas depends on how safe travelers feel, according to casino industry experts.

Customers participate in a craps game at a Las Vegas casino, seen here. Resorts are enforcing health measures, such as mask-wearing, to address the coronavirus pandemic. (Image: New York Times)

“Everything concerning getting people to come back to Las Vegas, for business or leisure travel, relates to safety,” Alan Feldman told Casino.org. Feldman, who spent 30 years with MGM Resorts, is a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute.

The coronavirus pandemic and a surge of violence on the Las Vegas Strip have contributed to a decline in tourism in recent months, according to industry experts.

Arrivals and departures at McCarran International Airport are down more than 60 percent in September 2020 compared to the same month a year ago. That means 2.6 million fewer people used the airport this September.

Also, several people have been hospitalized in shootings and fights at different sites on the Las Vegas Strip. This has raised concern about the impact on tourism.

People wanting to gamble have options outside of Nevada. Casino gaming is legal in 44 states at 944 casinos, according to the American Gaming Association website.

Feldman said tourists will stay put unless they have a comfort level about their safety.

“Until people feel safe in traveling, they will make a decision to stay home, or closer to home,” he said.

Hope on the Horizon

News that the pharmaceutical company Pfizer has a vaccine that could be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 buoyed hopes in the tourism industry. However, health experts said widespread usage could be many months away.

Feldman said COVID-19 containment is one factor in the “complex, multi-layered issue” of attracting people back to Las Vegas.

“It involves not only the public health issues of vaccines or other preventative measures, but also safety measures implemented by properties themselves,” he told Casino.org.

Resorts in Nevada have taken steps to address health safety, such as mandatory mask-wearing.

Some Las Vegas hotel-casinos also have enhanced their in-house security in response to violent incidents on the Strip. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department also has beefed up its presence in tourist areas.

Safety also is important in attracting conventions back to Las Vegas, Feldman said.

Conventions are seen as important to weekday hotel room reservations. Some resorts are not accepting midweek reservations now because of low demand.

Once the public understands the measures that are in place to assure their safety and, critically, have confidence in those measures, then we will start to see a return to convention business,” Feldman said.

Casino historian David G. Schwartz told Casino.org that the allure of Las Vegas will be appealing again once the public feels safe regarding the pandemic.

“People are going to want to travel to Las Vegas,” he said.

New Casino Strategies

Las Vegas resorts also are embracing new concepts they hope will attract tourists.

Circa Resort in downtown Las Vegas and the Cromwell on the Strip are adults-only hotel-casinos. Also on the Strip, Park MGM is the resort corridor’s first smoke-free casino.

Feldman said these strategies are promising.

“There are many customers, leisure as well as casino, who find kids distracting,” he told Casino.org. “For more than a decade, there has been a consistent increase in demand for smoke-free rooms and smoke-free areas in the casino. So, I think both of these initiatives are likely to succeed, as there is established customer demand.”

Larry Henry

Gaming Regulation, Crime, Politics — Larry Henry is a veteran print and broadcast journalist who spent more than 16 years in Nevada, including serving as legislative reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal and as political editor at the Las Vegas Sun. He's also written about popular culture for the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. As a broadcast journalist, he worked as managing editor at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Arkansas, where he now lives and where casino growth is a hot topic. A Marine Corps veteran and LSU graduate, he is also an avid movie fan, especially of classic film noir from the 1940s and ’50s.

View Comments

  • I agree 100% with Barry! We went this summer and had a blast as no one was there. We went back in September and feared for our safety, while on the strip. We felt safer on Freemont Street...crazy. Everything Barry cited, we experienced as well. We will not return until they get a handle on the crime...not the virus!!!

  • The Strip Casinos have cut staff so severely that you can't find a security guard or a cleaning crew member.
    When everywhere else in Las Vegas companies added cleaning people the Strip properties are filthy!
    This is after we're told that sanitation is essential.
    I can go to a locals property & find both security cleaning crews throughout the casino.
    The Strip properties don't respect their customers.
    They have earned the lack of customers.

  • Just came back from Vegas, didn’t see anyone cleaning up the machines, the floor was very dirty, no social distance, this was at Bellagios, no security around , people all over party ,the JetBlue plane was full with the middle seat oculpided.took a cab, was dirty,will take me long time to go back

  • I'm not sure what the people commenting have been seeing, in fact, their experiences sound contrived. I've been to Vegas four times since June from Florida and while there are differences, I never once felt unsafe. I'm certain that common sense might be the way you should approach the situation.

    As for the roving gangs on the scooters....it's dumb dumb hipsters and lazy asses thinking they're being cute. Nothing more. It's annoying for sure, but not terrifying!

    Get it together.

  • Las Vegas is still full of violence do not go out at night that's when cowards come out to hurt people just wanting entertainment for a short time to forget the past year of lock downs.

  • I was out in Vegas for my wifes birthday in July and I saw things I never thought I would see in Vegas. Roving gangs flying through casinos on elderly electric carts, sometimes with three people on board carrying music machines at top decibel levels. Cutting through table game areas with Noone saying a word to them. Roving gangs in the streets fighting it out with no response by police. This is a recipe for disaster. Wearing the stupid masks is irritating enough but that's nothing compared to the lawlessness I observed, with no push back. I go there very frequently and I'm not going back till they get a handle on this. Remember Vegas, just about every state has casinos. You need us, we don't need you. Do your jobs!!!!

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Larry Henry