- Gov. Steve Sisolak has directed Nevada’s gaming properties to reduce occupancy limitations at casinos from 50% to 25%.
- Experts say the new capacity restrictions will further strain the industry.
- Sisolak said the Nevada Gaming Control Board will fully implement and enforce the new measures.
- He also warned that properties that refuse to comply with the guidelines will suffer the consequences.
On Sunday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak directed the state’s gaming properties to reduce occupancy limitations at casinos and their bars and restaurants from 50% to 25%, effective 12:01 am, Tuesday.
While Silver State has avoided another shutdown, the new capacity restrictions will further strain the gaming industry, which is the economic engine of the state, according to experts.
Director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors Brendan Bussmann says that halving the casino capacity will hurt an industry that has implemented “exorbitant” measures to protect its guests and workers from the coronavirus.
Since the state’s casinos first closed in mid-March, group business and entertainment in resorts has been nearly non-existent. While recent weeks have seen the industry take steps towards revenue recovery, the new occupancy rules could deter that progress.
Founding partner of The Strategy Organization consulting group, Josh Swissman, says limiting gatherings to 50 or fewer attendees stops the momentum that the convention industry had gained under the previous cap of 250 people. It could also cause shows on the Strip, whose recent comeback was with much fanfare, to call off their events.
Swissman said that since casinos create most of their revenues during the weekend, the 25% capacity limit probably won’t have a severe effect on midweek business. Instead, he said it could hurt weekend business.
Sisolak said he conversed with “most gaming operators,” adding that the Nevada Gaming Control Board will do everything possible to implement and enforce the new measures. He warned that casinos that will not follow the guidelines will “suffer the consequences.”
The new Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said the regulatory body will vigorously enforce the new requirements among the state’s licensees.
“The more successfully Nevada mitigates the current spread of COVID over the next several weeks, the more likely we are to experience a complete return to current gaming floor occupancy percentages at that point,” he said.
The Nevada Gaming Commission has already addressed nine complaints that the Control Board brought against licensees since late July.
In an emailed statement from MGM Resorts International, spokesman Brian Ahern said the Strip casino operator is quickly working to adjust its operations to comply with the new measures.
“We will share that information (on entertainment) as quickly as possible to minimize guest inconvenience,” Ahern said. “The health and safety of our employees and guests is our number one priority, and we remain committed to the comprehensive plan we have put in place.”
Other Strip operators that agreed to comply with the new guidelines include Caesars Entertainment Inc. and Wynn Resorts Ltd.
Las Vegas Sands Corp., Boyd Gaming Corp., and Red Rock Resorts Inc.’s spokespeople declined to comment on the new measures.