Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has ordered the statewide shutdown of all casino and gambling operations as of midnight, another startling indication of the economic and cultural impact the coronavirus is exacting on American life.
Gambling ventures will be shuttered for 30 days, said Sisolak, who also ordered that other nonessential businesses, including bars and restaurants, will be forced to close as of noon Wednesday. Businesses such as hospitals, gas stations and grocery stores will remain open. Restaurants and bars that serve food will have to close or transition to delivery and takeout only.
“Today additional steps must be taken to slow the spread of the virus in our state,” the governor said.
Showing flashes of anger at times, Sisolak spoke of the need to protect medical professionals and first responders to the coronavirus pandemic. “You’re being told not to go out,” he said, and then repeated: “You’re being told not to go out. You owe it to them to listen to that directive.
“I don’t know if I can make this any clearer, the people that are looking for a loophole here,” he said before repeating that every casino and gambling machine in the state must be turned off by midnight.
Nicole Castro of Austin, Texas, was grabbing drinks at Kona Grill, a restaurant near the Strip, when the governor came on TV to make his announcement. The room fell silent as customers and cooks in the kitchen listened to the news.
“If Vegas is taking the coronavirus this seriously, that shows you how bad it is,” the 28-year-old accounting student said.
She had come out to Vegas on the whim earlier in the week after she found a round-trip flight for $70. Castro used the opportunity to travel to nearby places, such as the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, before making her way back to Sin City.
“This has been one the best trips I’ve been on,” she said.
Tuesday’s announcement — affecting a $6.6-billion gambling business in Las Vegas alone — comes as the number of people testing positive for coronavirus in Clark County jumped to 42, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. There has been one confirmed death in the state.
Uber driver Samuel Parlan, 59, was surprised by news of the pending shutdown. “I was expecting a few casinos to be open and was hoping to make some money from that,” he said, and speculated whether he would need to find a job delivering packages for Amazon. “If all the casinos are shutting down, the employees will be really affected. It’ll be like 2008 when people lost their houses.”
Many in Las Vegas suspected this was coming as COVID-19 cases increased across the nation. On Sunday, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts announced that they would be suspending operations starting Tuesday at least through March. Wynn Resorts said that it intends to pay all full-time Wynn and Encore employees during the closure.
Caesars Entertainment said that all reservations between March 18 and April 16 will be automatically canceled and refunded.
Some tourists who had reservations at hotels on the Strip for this week awakened Tuesday not knowing where they were going to spend the night.
Such was the case for Michelle Carrera, 26, and boyfriend Luis Martinez, 26.
The pair, who are from Mexico City, had been staying at Mirage, an MGM property, since last Thursday. At around 11 a.m. Tuesday a hotel employee knocked on their hotel room door to tell them that they had a few hours to pack their belongings and check out.
“We told him that we had nowhere to go and didn’t know where we were going to sleep,” Martinez said. “But they wouldn’t help us find another hotel.”
Carrera began crying.
“I was scared and didn’t know what we were going to do,” she said.
The couple, who were flying back to Mexico City on Wednesday, managed to book a room at the Venetian.
Nevada joins an ever-growing list of states that have ordered the closure or partial closure of what are deemed nonessential services — including California, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Washington.