“Las Vegas grinds to halt as casinos close over virus - Yahoo News” plus 1 more

“Las Vegas grinds to halt as casinos close over virus - Yahoo News” plus 1 more

Las Vegas grinds to halt as casinos close over virus - Yahoo News

Posted: 16 Mar 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Los Angeles (AFP) - Slot machines switched off, blackjack tables deserted... several of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas will shut their doors Tuesday to tackle the spread of the new coronavirus.

The sweeping closures will deal a heavy blow to tourists and gamblers -- and many of the city's vulnerable contract workers.

The virus claimed its first victim in Nevada on Monday, with a death reported in Clark County, which encompasses the Las Vegas Strip, a street packed with world-famous hotels and casinos.

With US authorities now recommending that mass events with 10 or more people be canceled, MGM Resorts said it would temporarily suspend operations until further notice.

"It is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression," chairman Jim Murren said in a statement.

"Accordingly, we will close all of our Las Vegas properties... for the good of our employees, guests and communities," Murren said, adding the company intends to re-open the facilities "as soon as it is safe."

The group operates casinos including the Bellagio, the MGM Grand, New York-New York and the Luxor -- in total, a third of those lining the glitzy Strip.

On Monday, videos posted to social media showed empty rooms in casinos which traditionally bustle with customers at all hours.

- 'Breaks my heart' -

Wynn Resorts, another major hotel group, will also suspend operations from Tuesday, while Sands and Caesars are set to remain open on a restricted basis, local media reported.

The moves follow even more stringent measures in Atlantic City, where New Jersey governor Phil Murphy on Monday ordered all nine casinos closed.

Besides the casinos themselves, Las Vegas has also been forced to follow much of the rest of the US in cancelling major events.

CinemaCon, the movie theater industry's annual summit, is scrapped this year, while the NFL Draft will proceed without the public events that had been planned in Las Vegas.

Shows by magician David Copperfield and the Cirque du Soleil troupe are off.

While a blow to tourists and the local economy, the worst affected are likely to be casino workers, the state's biggest union said Monday.

The 60,000-strong Culinary Union told AFP that it is negotiating to ensure that "all workers, regardless if they are under a union contract or not... should be paid during the time when business is closed."

In a leaked letter to MGM employees, Murren said full-time workers would be paid two weeks beyond their last day if laid off and would receive benefits until the end of June.

"We deeply regret the strain it will cause families and our community partners, and we will do all we can to mitigate it," the letter reads.

The Review-Journal newspaper also reported layoffs at Caesars Entertainment, which owns several casinos including Caesars Palace. The company did not respond to AFP calls.

Marie Rhodes, a Las Vegas worker, published a video to Instagram saying she had been laid off "until further notice."

"Some people won't be coming back. Twenty-one years at this joint, I know I'll be back, but I just talked to one of my co-workers who has no savings," she said.

"I don't know what they are gonna do, because we don't know how long this shit will last.

"Breaks my heart, my heart hurts right now."

Park MGM is first resort in Las Vegas to ban smoking - Yahoo! Voices

Posted: 16 Sep 2020 12:00 AM PDT

A sign on the smoke-free gaming floor at Park MGM directs guests to various outdoor locations where they can light up. When it reopens September 30, the resort will be the first one along The Strip to fully ban smoking. (MGM Resorts)
A sign on the smoke-free gaming floor at Park MGM directs guests to outdoor locations where they can light up. (MGM Resorts)

After a pandemic shutdown in March, Park MGM plans to reopen at the end of September as a nonsmoking casino and hotel. It's the first Las Vegas resort that won't welcome smokers. "Let's clear the air. Park MGM is smoke-free," its website announced Monday.

The new policy applies to MGM as well as NoMad, its hotel within a hotel. "It's something that we're looking forward to definitely continuing for the long future," said Anton Nikodemus, who heads the company's Las Vegas properties. "As we had seen an increasing amount ... of guests looking for a nonsmoking alternative … we finally felt now would be the best time to make that decision."

The hotel-casino, which includes Bavette's Steakhouse, Primrose and Italian marketplace Eataly, will reopen Sept. 30. The former Monte Carlo opened two years ago with all nonsmoking guest rooms. State law also banned smoking in restaurants, but Park MGM's casino allowed players to smoke until coronavirus forced all Nevada casinos to close March 17.

The Park MGM and NoMad in Las Vegas will reopen Sept. 30.
The Park MGM and NoMad in Las Vegas will reopen Sept. 30. (MGM Resorts)

"While we've had it closed, we purchased all new carpet for the casino," Nikodemus said. "We redid the ceiling lighting and new paint. And [there are] new wall coverings around the entire exterior of the casino. It is a brand-new, fresh casino experience for our customers when they return."

Las Vegas observers say the timing may be right for a smoke-free resort. "If it was ever going to work, now would probably be the time," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of Las Vegas Advisor, a newsletter for visitors.

"I think that everybody's trying to find something that's going to be unique given the (COVID) situation," he added. "Vegas is fighting for tourists again. … They're fighting for that dollar."

The publication in August polled readers on whether they agreed with the idea of a smoke-free casino. The results, based on more than 1,500 votes, showed that 57% of respondents support some sort of smoking ban. Nearly 1 in 4 agreed with banning smoking in casinos.

Michael Green, an associate professor of history at University of Nevada Las Vegas, also agreed that a nonsmoking resort may prove successful. "I think we are seeing the future upon us," he said. "Our awareness of COVID, the masks and all that involves, is discouraging smoking further. … I don't think they'd do this until they think there is a demand."

MGM Resorts' eight other Vegas casinos already have set aside portions of their gaming floors for nonsmoking guests. Some smoke-free table games are available at Wynn-Encore. The poker room at the Venetian is also smoke-free.

Green said that based on the city's history, he doesn't expect other resorts to quickly ban smoking. "Las Vegas earned a reputation for being the place you went to do bad things that weren't necessarily good for you," he said. "Las Vegas has long encouraged this behavior."

But Green added that Park MGM's no-smoking policy may mean attitudes are changing.

"Does it mean that we will end up entirely with no-smoking properties on the Strip? I doubt that," he said. "[But] I wouldn't be amazed if at some point somebody advertises, 'Oh, come here, we'll let you smoke' if it does spread."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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