Nevada casinos, restaurants forced to lower max capacities to 25%

Las Vegas Strip at nightIt was fun while it lasted, but Nevada’s casinos are about to take another hit. Just after midnight tonight, a new order passed down by Governor Steve Sisolak will force all gambling facilities, bars and restaurants are going to take a “pause” in their operations for three weeks, with capacities being reduced from their current level of 50% all the way down to 25%. The changes are due to a new spike in COVID-19 cases and, if they don’t work, Sisolak is prepared to implement even stricter policies.

The reduction is an attempt to avoid a complete shutdown like the one seen earlier this year in the state. However, the governor has made it clear that the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) is prepared to enforce the rules and asserts, “If [casino operators] don’t follow [the restrictions] they will suffer the consequences,” Sisolak warned. “We are in constant contact with the Gaming Control Board. It’s time to act. I am not issuing a shutdown order.” For its part, the NGCB will apparently be given “great latitude” in assigning penalties to violators.

The 25% capacity limit is for all properties at all times, even Thanksgiving this Thursday. In addition, no restaurant or any other foodservice establishment – including those at casinos – is able to receive walk-in customers. All tables will be seated by reservation only, and no table will be allowed to seat more than four people.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 fiasco, Nevada has seen a total of 133,888 cases that resulted in 2,017 deaths. As of yesterday, there were another 2,155 new cases and six more deaths, and the governor is confident restricting gatherings of any kind will halt the virus from spreading further. He explains, COVID is filling up our hospital beds and that threatens all Nevadans. This is our biggest threat… This cannot become our reality.”

Bar and restaurant owners are fearful they’ll have to close permanently as revenue streams dry up. They don’t see how they can survive at 25%, but Sisolak disagrees. He argues that they can offer delivery, curbside pickup and take-out options, but it isn’t clear how beneficial these would be as an alternative. However, Sisolak believes the announcement that a vaccine might be right around the corner is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”

If anyone’s concerned about the issues in Las Vegas, there’s an alternative, but it might mean making some changes to travel plans. Atlantic City doesn’t plan on stepping back its casino market and, if you can catch a flight, perhaps hitting a Boardwalk casino this weekend is a suitable option.

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