Las Vegas Turns Lights On & Plans to Reopen Atlantic City

The casino business overview focuses on the most important news from the casino world in the United States this week, June 1 – June 5. We bring you the most important headlines from the industry this week.

Las Vegas Casinos Turn on the Lights Amid Protest and COVID-19 Outbreak

Some 78 days ago, Las Vegas went dark with casinos turning off the lights and managers faced with an unprecedented quandary – how to keep their properties safe during lockdown. Armies of locksmiths were rehired to test and rekey vulnerable doors and security staff was deployed.

Now, after the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak has struck, or so Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak hopes, business is restarting. Only this time, outside of the lingering danger of turning Las Vegas into a flash point for coronavirus infections, the city also has seen the national guard troops deployed to stop protesters from ransacking businesses and destroying property.

The riots have been sparked by the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minnesota after a police officer held him down in a chokehold for eight minutes. It later turned out the late Mr Floyd was infected with COVID-19, but the cause of death had been the arrest and applied pressure on his neck.

Some have criticized Gov. Sisolak for “caving in” and opting to shut down casinos in the Silver State, leaving 475,000 newly unemployed workers. Yet, this has been necessary. Sandra Douglass Morgan, the Head of the Gaming Control Board, has expressed hopes that by reopening casinos as of Thursday, June 4, customers won’t be long before returning.

Nevada has already put up advertising campaigns hoping to attract customers and visitors. Yet, the next several weeks will be essential in determining whether business will start picking up or the added pressure of the virus outbreak and riots will precipitate Nevada into a further financial slump.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey casinos are next, with the Keystone State already returning back to operations and the Garden State probably waiting for at least another month.

Gov. Phil Murphy Plans to Reopen Casinos in Atlantic City on July 4

With financial pressure on the hospitality and gaming industries climbing up, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is keen to restart the industry as a source of some financial relief. Gov. Murphy has cautioned that talking about restart of casino businesses is still “too early,” but it is coming.

Yet, whether the date is July 4 is not quite certain still. Murphy offered scarce comment on what measures casinos may face once they return, but this is not very likely to be much different than what has already been established in other states, Nevada no less.

Gov. Murphy also acknowledged that the challenged that lied ahead of casinos was also double as the properties were ill-equipped to deal with the virus. “The bad news is,” Gov. Murphy said during an interview with Mike Lopez on WOND, “casinos sort of have the attributes that are hardest to deal with the virus.” 

The governor meant the fact that all activities take place indoors, people are forced to be in the vicinity of each other and there is “no ventilation.” Yet, casinos around the United States have already been adapting to the new measures. Many casinos have introduced plexiglass separators, hand sanitizers and have decided to reopen at reduced capacity.

Non-essential retail businesses and outdoor dining is among the focuses of reopening right now, Murphy said, with the governor hoping to see things normalize soon.

American Gaming Association Reports $43.6bn Generated by Commercial Casinos in 2019

With the current outbreak and suspension of all gaming activities, the American Gaming Association posted some good news, citing 2019 numbers. Commercial casinos in the United States won $43.6 billion from gamblers last year, a nearly 4% increase year-over-year.

This had been the straight increase in a row and now one likely to come to an end in light of recent developments. Tribal casinos are excluded from the statistic, which report their own revenue on a different timetable.

Tribal casinos last report posted their revenue at $33.7 billion in 2018, or a 4.1% growth year-over-year. Casinos were aided by the rapid expansion of sports betting with over 20 states already having legalized sports betting or in the process of doing so.

Some $13 billion were wagered in 2019 legally, the industry’s national trade group announced in its press release. Bill Miller, the trade group chief executive, commented on the recent developments and how the industry would be affected, arguing that commercial casinos had gone from a steadfast growth to a complete shutdown.

The survey took a look at 25 states where commercial casinos operate and in estimated 21 states casino properties posted an increase. New Jersey alone saw some impressive results, propelled by the Garden State’s open-arms approach towards Internet gambling as well as sports betting it helped instore in 2018.

New Jersey’s results hit $3.38 billion in 2019, up 19.5%, the highest jump in a decade reported by the state. Pennsylvania also saw a good overall report with the state’s 12 properties posting $3.38 billion in 2019 and indicating a strong overall growth.

Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation Businesses Give Restart to Casinos

Properties around the United States have been quick to restore operations, with the Cherokee Nations Businesses not missing out on reopening their 10 casino properties in Oklahoma earlier this week.

The tribal operator is running a phased reopening strategy, the result of two monthly of diligent planning with the key goal being ensuring the safety of staff members and visitors, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. saying.

According to Hoskin, the tribes have showed determination and efficiency in slowing down the spread of COVID-19, and the executive urged that businesses ought to remain vigilant in the face of the pandemic.

Reopening procedures are taking place all over the American casino industry with over 450 properties brought back online. Casinos have been reopening or posting reopening dates in Ontario, Kentucky, Minnesota and elsewhere around the states.