Vegas News June 7, 2020
Vegas is Back
This is the week, so many of us have been waiting for. Las Vegas casinos are allowed to reopen. The first wave of openings took place in downtown Las Vegas and around the city just after midnight on June 4. The Vegas Strip casinos waited until sunrise to open their doors. For sure we can say, Vegas Is Back…Kinda.
Many locals and some tourists headed out to catch the action right at midnight. I decided to wait until sunrise before checking out my locals casinos (Red Rock Casino Resort & Spa, Suncoast, Rampart) before heading to the Vegas Strip to see what things looked like at Bellagio and the Cosmopolitan.
I only visited the casinos to see what they looked like and enjoy some good times with good people. I wasn’t visiting casinos to gamble this week. That will change in the future but not right away. I’ll get to that in a minute.
My takeaway is what many were expecting. Vegas is open and the casinos are pretty much the same. The difference from normal (besides the piano player wearing a face-covering above) is reduced capacity, limited amenities, and plenty of ways to keep your hands clean. Some casinos had similar protocols while others were different.
Quick Vegas Strip Thoughts
This is the capacity of Vegas that I love the best. Casinos are only allowed 50% capacity so there’s plenty of elbow room at the tables and machines. Despite that, there were some busy moments in the casinos with lots of onlookers drinking and checking out the scene.
The only casino I visited with plexiglass was Bellagio and players either didn’t mind or dealt with it. A few craps players at Bellagio were having a blast in between the plastic. They were cajoling with the dealers and everyone was having fun like you’d normally see at a craps table.
Besides MGM properties, El Cortez and Wynn are the only properties I’ve noticed with the plastic guards up right now.
My quick walkthrough the Cosmopolitan was pretty uneventful. Social distancing, no plexiglass, sanitizer, yadda yadda. The highlight of visiting the Cosmopolitan was the same as it usually is. Chandelier Bar is open and there were a handful of earlier visitors already enjoying the cocktails.
Word of caution, the bar might be out of “buzz buttons” for your Verbena when you visit. Be patient if you’re visiting soon. It’s going to be difficult to estimate visitation for there could be shortages on certain items at some of the casinos.
Morning At The Locals Casinos
I visited Suncoast Casino around 8 a.m. and it smelled as smokey as ever – already. There was one funny/strange sighting. I walked past a guy sitting at a slot machine wearing a face mask and holding a cigar. The locals are back, baby!
The crowd in the casino was the size a typical Thursday morning. Besides the sportsbook being closed, everything felt normal at Suncoast. Dupar’s is open if you’re in the mood for pancakes.
Next door at Rampart Casino the staff was welcoming regulars by name even though almost everyone was wearing a face covering. This is the kind of service people love at the locals properties and The D Las Vegas and Golden Gate where you’ll often see Derek Stevens greeting guests.
Between the six casinos I visited this the week the biggest gaming change I noticed (besides plexiglass at Bellagio which we’ve already seen) was a stadium gaming installation at Red Rock Casino. It seems as if it has seating for about 30 people.
They’ve put electronic blackjack tables and video game gambling machines in this section before but they weren’t popular and left. I’m curious to see if the tide changes.
Don’t Call It A Comeback…Vegas Is Back!
The best part of running around to the casinos was seeing and hearing so many people working that were happy to be back. Customer service in the casinos appears to be better than it’s been in years (despite that one dude at Red Rock that I won’t discuss). I hope this doesn’t go away. Great customer service is the reason so many of us love Las Vegas.
It’s easy to get caught up in the pictures and videos of busy casinos. The great atmosphere is back but the business hasn’t quite returned yet. Some bars and restaurants have limited hours or remain closed. Shows and nightclubs aren’t starting until July at the earliest.
Only about 35% of Vegas Strip casino revenue is from gambling. That number is closer to 50% off the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas. Casino sections may be crowded the entire gaming floor may not be entirely packed with gamblers. Additionally, non-gaming revenue will take time to come back.
This is going to be a long road back for casinos…but they’re on the way back.
It will take time to see how the new health and safety measures work. Las Vegas casinos shouldn’t look the same in 3 months, 6 months, and even a year. Hopefully, the safety measure prove useful and we can move forward. Recovery will be taken in baby steps.
An analyst says full recovery could take until 2023. That sounds crazy at first but it may not be too far out. Casinos will have to ramp up from low capacities before they can even start realizing serious profits. Hotel room capacity as low as 25%, casinos and restaurants are 50%, shows and clubs are 0%. This will slowly increase as will visitation. Vegas is back (!) but there’s a long road until it’s totally back.
Enjoy Las Vegas for what it is today or enjoy it whenever you’re ready. Las Vegas is back and ready for you whenever you want to enjoy it. The casinos are doing their part to help keep the properties clean. Many guests are respectful of personal space. Unfortunately, not everyone is. This is really no different than you see locally going to Target or Walmart.
I’ve mentioned before that my gambling preferences have changed. I’m jonesing to bet on traditional US sports but I don’t have to do that in a casino. My nose is definitely more sensitive to smoke and that might keep me away from the tables and machines. We’ll see how long this lasts. I’m always up for fun so my attitude can change on a whim.
Michael will share his thoughts on a week in Vegas separately. He should have some good first-hand experience to share.
Excalibur Opens This Week, Aria Opens Soon
Excalibur is opening on June 11. You can read the press release here. I’m not a fan of the castle so I’ll move onto a property I like.
MGM Resorts International President and acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he’d like to have Aria open before July 4 weekend.
That seems possible and Jewel Nightclub has some entertainment booked throughout the month. Another bright spot on Vegas closing and trying to bring customers back. Tickets to see DMX and other artists are as low as $20 (women) and $30 (men). This could be putting the cart before the horse as nightclubs aren’t able to open yet. It could also be a sign that they will be allowed to open by July.
After Aria opens Hornbuckle says he’d like to see MGM Resorts open properties every other week or monthly. Stay tuned…Vegas is back…sorta.
Rumor Of The Week
Rumor of the week: Those of you that listened to this week’s ZorkCast Live already know this. Vital Vegas says Park MGM will be smoke-free when it reopens. I’d love to see it. This rumor might have legs. I actually heard this from someone who doesn’t know Scott or Vital Vegas. That’s more different people corroborate the same info, the more reliable that info often is. I’m for this more than ever now that my nose is super sensitive to smoke.
Major Station Casinos Boarding Pass Changes
I saw rumblings about Station Casinos changing how many points are earned from video poker for the past few days. This morning (Saturday) I realized the changes are much bigger.
“We have made modifications to our Boarding Pass program that include the way our guests earn points. We no longer offer points on non-gaming amenities and table games. While table games guests may still earn traditional comps, monthly offers and access to table games promotions, guests seeking to earn non-gaming points can sign up for the Station Casinos my | Rewards™ Mastercard® and earn up to 30 points for every dollar spent at Station Casinos properties upon approval.”
Specifically “earn one (1) base point for every $2 of coin-in on Video Poker and Multi-Game boxes, Video Blackjack and Electronic Table Games. However, you will still earn one (1) base point for every $1 of coin-in on Video Reel, Reel Slot and Standalone Keno machines, unless otherwise designated. In addition, there are marked slot games that will be excluded from earning points.”
I literally saw this five minutes sitting down and haven’t had time to process my thoughts. On the surface, it looks bad but I’ll give it a more detailed read later today. Is this as bad as it appears? Drop a comment below if you have any thoughts.
The big news this week was about casinos reopening. However, there’s some more news from Las Vegas you might want to be aware of.
- Some restaurants are starting to add an optional COVID-19 fee to their bills. Vital Vegas has details on this at restaurants inside of casinos. Read more here. (Added 10 June: TravelZork Tweet from 9 June at Mon Ami Gabi.)
- Cannery Casino is finally part of Boyd Gaming’s B-Connected players club. Read more here.
- Stop the presses, The Drew is done even though nothing was happening. Read more here.
- Morels at The Palazzo is closed and won’t reopen. Read more here.
- BORING! Elon Musk wants to extend his boring tunnel system to the Vegas Strip. Read more here.
- The owner of the Golden Nugget, Tilman Fertitta, is angry. Read more here.
- Vital Vegas is rumoring that Boyd will buy some Station Casinos properties. Read more here.
- On a related note, Palms and the Station Casinos properties rumored to be going to Boyd accounted for about 20% of Station Casinos revenue last year. Read more here.
Also, be sure to join the ZorkCast Group on FaceBook. This is the Facebook group to continue the conversation from the ZorkCast podcast and TravelZork website. Feel free to start a conversation related to anything TravelZork or ZorkCast.
Want direct access to casino news, casino reviews, narratives, loyalty programs, and video poker? Visit our casino/Vegas section directly at CasinoZork. Join the thousands of people who read TravelZork every month! Sign up here for one email per week updates. (Email is sent weekly on Monday and now includes EXCLUSIVE tips and commentary!)