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Opening Day Las Vegas Strip Walk

Las Vegas is Open!

After nearly three months, casinos on the Las Vegas Strip opened their doors on June 4th. There’s been much speculation about how different casino operations would be when the time finally came to reopen. My Drop Box cohost Willy Allison and I decided to walk the strip on June 4th, visiting each property that had decided to open its doors between MGM grand and the Strat. We took notes, asked questions, did a few experiments; some real investigative journalism (not). We walked 6.2 miles, and over 17,500 steps to bring you this analysis.

The analysis is not meant to praise any one company or bash any other. It’s meant to share information, so operators out there can see what’s going on in Las Vegas on the Strip. It’s meant to give readers insight into what is working (granted the small sample size). I’m going to talk about casinos that went above and beyond what was expected and needed (to a fault, in some ways), casinos that didn’t do enough, and casinos that seem to have found the right balance. Again, it’s not meant to bash or pander, but to share information. Without further ado:

(Note: all employees at every property were required to wear face masks)

Above and Beyond

Our first few stops on our long walk were MGM Grand and New York New York. What we found here were the most readily accessible face masks for the public. There were stands at all the entrances with boxes of masks customers could grab themselves. The downside of this is the box isn’t controlled, so it’s possible to touch more than one mask while grabbing for your own. Sanitizer was abundantly placed throughout the casino floor, and available on every table. Maybe the most impressive thing about these properties was the several “Hand Washing Stations” found throughout the properties. These are large stands containing four sinks with soap (two on each side), partitioned from each other. The end caps of the stations had self-serve boxes of masks and gloves. To me, these were a real show of investment in safety.

As for the table games, I was interested to find that they were using two sets of dice on each craps table, so one could be cleaned between shooters without slowing the game down. We saw this tactic used by several other casinos as well.

There was a vast showing of the plexiglass shields separating the players from each other, and the players from the dealer. While playing on a table with said shield, guests were not required to wear a mask and were allowed to smoke. On the few tables that did not have the shields, roulette, and craps (craps had small shields between players, but nothing between them and the dealer), guests were required to wear masks and were not allowed to smoke.

If this seems reasonable, I’ll explain why I thought it was overkill. The shields, to me, are ridiculous. They’re big, bulky, expensive, and frankly, it’s just another surface to clean. I envision them becoming petri dishes of germs, and dread when I start to see drunk people and people that think they’re funny start banging on them or shaking them. Do they serve a purpose? Yes. Know what serves the exact same purpose for a fraction of the price? Face masks.

“But Andrew, we can’t force players to wear masks, can we? They’ll just leave.” Stay tuned my friends. We’ll get to that.

Not Enough

I was surprised to find several high-profile properties (and one north strip) to have looser rules than I expected. I won’t mention names because I’m not here to throw dirt on anyone. But there were several casinos that, once inside, seem to have changed nothing besides requiring their employees to wear masks. There were no requirements of the players to wear masks. Players were allowed to smoke. We also found it difficult at these properties to obtain a face mask, if you didn’t have one with you (part of the experiment we did in each property). It’s worth noting that these properties were among the slowest and least busy, especially in table games.

Rules are meant to be broken. I’m going to break my rule about not mentioning names due to the conditions we observed at Treasure Island and Circus Circus. We noticed some employees at Treasure Island were wearing different masks. We asked them why and were saddened to learn they had to provide their own, unlike every other stop on our trip. It was also difficult to obtain a mask or locate sanitizer stations.

I’m only mentioning Circus Circus because of the two table games employees I came across. There were no conventional table games open, but two dealers were at small stadium game stations. We asked them questions about when other things would open. They didn’t appear to have been told anything. We also saw some sections where every slot machine was on and playable, separated by a small, frankly inadequate, partition. Some of these machines were so close together you couldn’t sit down without pulling the chair back from the partitions.

The Perfect Balance?

This one is going to be short and sweet. Admittedly, I was nervous about what I might find at Caesars properties. But I was quite pleased to find the conditions I found at Caesar’s Palace and Flamingo. There was no showing of the plexiglass shields. Players on all tables were required to wear a face mask. No smoking allowed while playing (must step back six feet from the table). It’s also worth noting that these were the busiest properties we came across. I mention this in case you were wondering if not allowing players to smoke at the table would drive away business. Masks were accessible. Washing and sanitizing stations were found throughout the floor. Caesar’s Entertainment may have found the perfect balance of safety and still conducting business on a high level.

Other Interesting Findings

  • Sahara (formerly the SLS, formerly the Sahara) did something we didn’t see anywhere else that impressed us. They provided goggles to employees. This makes so much sense, because as we all know, the face mask covers just your nose and mouth. This extra effort to protect the staff’s eyes is admirable. They weren’t big and bulky and cheap looking either. We thought they looked great. Bravo.
  • After all the talk about temperature checks, we were only checked by two casino companies. The process seems strange to me, but I’m not a doctor or public safety expert. The process was fast though, faster than I thought it would be. We did come across another casino company that was temperature checking hotel guests but not casino guests. It seems to me, if anything, it should be the other way around. But what do I know, really?
  • We observed an option for cashless buy-ins at the Strat. They were using this tech before the closure, I believe. But I wanted to mention it because this section is about interesting findings. There were debit card machines on every table that one could buy in with, for a 3% fee. If the fee goes down, and availability of this tech goes up, I could see a future with this.
  • Every casino we went through had removed every other slot machine chair (except the aforementioned Circus Circus). Most of them had every other machine turned off. A few though, had all machines on. This leaves room for people moving chairs and playing machines next to each other, which we did observe on a few occasions. There also didn’t seem to be much personnel floating around to enforce the recommended guidelines.
  • It’s also worth mentioning that there was tons of additional cleaning, sanitizing, and wiping down of equipment by dealers and table games supervisors. Chairs, chips, shufflers, dice, everything was being cleaned between players, between shooters, during free time on dead tables, and just frequently throughout the games.

Summary

The most interesting thing about our findings, to me, is the inconsistency. There’s lots of casinos on the Strip and a handful of casino operating companies. They’ve each elected to do things a little (sometimes a lot) different than the others. To me, this is strange, but maybe that’s why I don’t make the big bucks.

Obviously, casinos are fluid. Things can change from day to day, and they probably will. I wanted to share the conditions of opening day with you all. Hopefully, you can take from this what conditions you may or may not want to implore. Or, if you’re a player, which I know I get, and appreciate, you can see the conditions presented and decide what’s best for you to play in. Now that the slide back to normal has begun, I do hope all of you stay safe. See you next time!