Visitors May Have Second Thoughts About Returning to Las Vegas Casinos after Violent Protest

Posted on: May 30, 2020, 08:10h. 

Last updated on: May 31, 2020, 12:18h.

UPDATE: Saturday night’s protest in Downtown Las Vegas related to the death of Minnesota man George Floyd attracted some 800 to 1,000 participants, some of whom sometimes had confrontations with local police. Elsewhere, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced he was calling in the National Guard to assist in Reno after protests there turned violent and the City Hall there may have been breached. A curfew was in effect for Reno for Saturday night.

The threat of violence, already displayed in a local demonstration recalling the brutal death of George Floyd could discourage some guests from heading to Las Vegas casinos when they start to reopen on Thursday, national gaming experts warn.

las vegas protest may dampen casino attendance
A Las Vegas police officer on Las Vegas Boulevard Friday moves back protesters assembled to protest the death of George Floyd. Violence later in the day led to injuries and arrests. (Image: John Locher/AP)

Protests were expected to continue through the weekend after Friday’s peaceful demonstration on The Strip turned violent. Twelve Las Vegas officers suffered injuries after getting struck by rocks, 80 protesters were arrested, and the city saw various properties damaged and graffiti painted.

On Saturday, some downtown Las Vegas restaurants and bars already were closing for the night because of the threat of additional violence. A demonstration was to be held at Downtown Container Park.

Whether the protests will deter tourists will depend on the circumstances at the time of the reopening,” Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, told when asked about the concern.

He predicted, “the demonstrations are unlikely to impact the reopenings of The Strip properties, which are not congested in a small area, set back from the street, and already have trained security personnel and advanced security systems.”

But the Rev. Richard McGowan, a professor of finance at Boston College who closely follows national gambling trends, said “of course” the threat of violence could keep some visitors away from gaming properties.

As far as added precautions casinos may take to somehow put visitors’ minds at ease as they prepare for reopenings that kick off on Thursday, McGowan told that “usually you would hire more police. But that would not be wise in this case.

“I guess assuring customers that they are safe in the casinos would be helped by hiring more civilian guards that are less threatening than uniform police,” McGowan further said.

“People associate Vegas with a relaxing and fun time,” McGowan explained. “This situation is neither fun nor relaxing.”

Las Vegas’ motto of what goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas seems to be violated with civil disturbances like this,” McGowan added.

Visitors may already be anxious about coming to reopened casinos since the threat of catching COVID-19 remains. Nevada’s venues are implementing multiple health and safety precautions to reduce the risk of the sometimes-fatal illness.

To curb the risk of disorder, Las Vegas police warned Saturday that officers will continue to make arrests if there is vandalism and violence.

George Floyd’s death and underlying issues have led to protests nationwide. Some are peaceful and some are violent.

Floyd was killed Monday after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the unarmed, black man’s neck for over eight minutes, despite pleas that he could no longer breathe. Three other officers at the scene failed to intervene.

All four were fired. Chauvin was arrested Friday on third-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Nevada officials have condemned the death. “The officers and everyone at the LVMPD [Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department] sees this situation with great empathy. While we understand people are hurting, we are here to see that more people aren’t hurt in clashes,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said in a statement issued Saturday.

“It does not serve the memory of a man to destroy, loot, and hurt others in his honor,” Lombardo added. “It does honor him by standing up for what is right. And in that case, the LVMPD will stand with its citizens as they exercise their freedom to speak out.”

Friday’s Las Vegas demonstration, organized by activist group Black Lives Matter, began “peacefully,” Lombardo said, as 200 to 300 protesters assembled by the Miracle Mile Shops near Las Vegas and Tropicana boulevards.

The participants marched for a couple of hours, mostly on sidewalks, carrying signs often demanding justice, peace, and reminders that black lives matter.

When the protest began to wind down, “A group of agitators arrived to ratchet-up tensions,” Lombardo said. Then officers repeatedly ordered the crowd to disperse. Many chose not to leave and were arrested.

He explained that dispersal orders are voiced “when a crowd has become unruly or unsafe for citizens. It is meant to protect people from harm.

“As police prepare for another round of possible protests on Saturday, [we] ask members of the public to keep demonstrations peaceful and lawful,” Lombardo added.

Controversial Charges, Detention

Two of the people arrested at the protest were journalists, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The newspaper also reported that a miscommunication led to many protesters being improperly held in jail on Saturday.

Las Vegas Chief Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum explained that none of the people arrested on the misdemeanor charge of failure to disperse needed to post bail. Because of the coronavirus, typically those arrested on misdemeanors would be released on their own recognizance, she said.

“That should never have happened,” Baucum told the Review-Journal on Saturday. “But there was a miscommunication from one of the chiefs at the jail … to a supervisor at the jail via a telephone call to Las Vegas Justice Court pretrial services. I’m still working through that.”

As of 1 p.m. Saturday, the Review-Journal said there were 50 suspects listed on the Clark County Detention Center website who face a failure-to-disperse charge, likely linked to the protest.

Gov. Sisolak Condemns Floyd’s Death, Urges Peaceful Protest

In a statement issued Saturday by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Nevada State Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, the officials said, “George Floyd was killed by a despicable and loathsome Minneapolis police officer. He and the other officers who watched and didn’t come to Mr. Floyd’s aid, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Of that, we have no doubt.

“To the protesters, we hear you and we are listening, and more importantly, we invite you to be part of a constructive solution, and the healing our community desperately needs. We respect and defend your right to protest, but please express yourselves peacefully.”