The light at the end of the tunnel for Nevada is shining brighter after Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Tuesday that the Silver State is expected to return to operating at 100% capacity by June 1st.
Last year in Mid-March, when the novel Coronavirus had just been declared a pandemic by the WHO, Gov. Sisolak cut all losses and closed all non-essential businesses across the state for three long months. Since June 2020, after the first sweeping closures, the governor has gradually reopened the state and adjusted safety measures depending on the severity of Covid-19 infection cases.
Land-based casinos, for instance, have been receiving instruction from the state government in conjunction with the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to reduce or increase their floor capacity limits accordingly per the rate of infections. Occupancy limits for the brick-and-mortar casinos in Sin City and other parts of the Silver State started with 50% after the first reopening last year in June. The restriction was later cut down to 25% after the situation got worse last November, then bumped up to 35% in mid-February as health officials continued monitoring the situation.
Starting March 15th, gaming houses have been taking in patrons with a 50% occupancy restriction, and now, the full capacity D-day for Nevada is nigh.
What Does This Mean for Nevada’s Casino Industry?
Gov. Sisolak’s announcement is a breath of fresh air for the gaming and hospitality sector in Nevada as it means that things will soon return to normalcy and perhaps even regain its former glory. As for casinos’ full-capacity operations, the governor said that the gaming properties in the state would stay under the oversight of the NGCB, adding that:
“I know that the gaming control board wants to return to normal just as much as everyone else does, which is why they worked so hard with casino owners, local leaders, and employee unions to set up vaccination sites on gaming properties.”
He did not disclose any further details about when the gaming regulator will give casino properties the green light to switch to full-capacity operations. Even so, industry insiders expect that the June 1st date will likely be when 100% floor occupancies for casinos will be back as well.
Mind you, earlier this month; the state gaming ombudsman had already recommended that casinos be allowed to increase their floor occupancy capacities based on how many workers have received the Covid-19 vaccination. Per the governor’s words and the steady progress of inoculation for hospitality industry staffers, the June 1st target for casinos is more than just a hunch.
Social Distancing and Mask Wearing Directives Still in Play Across the State
An action plan laid out in February had its eyes on May 1st as the tentative date for the governor and his team of health officials to surrender the decision-making power to the counties. However, in his Tuesday briefing, Governor Sisolak maintained that strict social distancing measures and wearing masks would remain intact everywhere in the state, at least for the transition period to ensure Nevada residents’ safety and the June 1st full-capacity target. Part of his statement read:
“I wish I could give all Nevadans an exact timeline as to when we can tuck away our masks – but public health officials made it clear that in order to reach our goal of reopening on June 1st, we must make sure Nevadans stay masked. It would be irresponsible for me as your Governor to ignore that advice. Additionally, it’s a common-sense bargain – if we all continue to wear masks, it will help ensure we can reopen our state by June 1st,”
With the announcement of 100% capacity operations by June, most state officials and business leaders praised the governor for his move and valiant efforts to keep the virus spread in check. Others, however, raised eyebrows as to the timing, including Mayor Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas, who has been a longtime critic of Gov. Sisolak since the widespread Covid-19 closures last year.
The Las Vegas Mayor was quick to question the full-capacity reopening’s true intention, given that the governor is seeking to retain his seat for a second term in November 2022. She said:
“I am so happy for Nevadans who are eager to get back to work, to school, and on with their lives, and to welcome tourists back to our fabulous city. The timing is curious, though, and the governor’s speech sounds so much like other governors trying to hold onto their seats, one must wonder if these decisions are-or ever were—more about science or about politics,”