A socially distant Las Vegas? What are the odds?

For decades, the El Cortez Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas has been known for single-deck blackjack.

But when the casinos and resorts open up — tentatively early June — after weeks of being shut down, players will no longer be able to touch the cards. About 100 slot machines at the casino have been removed, and the remaining 750 are now farther apart. Tape on the floor at the craps tables shows players where to stand to meet social-distancing requirements

“The days of 16 people standing around the dice table high-fiving one another are over for now,” said Adam Wiesberg, general manager of the El Cortez, whose previous owners include gangsters Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky.

While many cities and states grapple with the process of reopening, the stakes are high for Las Vegas, which has been hit particularly hard. About one-third of the local economy comes from the leisure and hospitality industry, more than any other major metropolitan area of the country. And when the city opens up after weeks of being shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will be a very different place.

For starters, many of the flashiest hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip will remain closed. The famed all-you-can-eat buffets will be gone. So will the nightclubs. It is unknown when big conventions, must-see live shows and sports events will return.

For towering giants like MGM Resorts International, Wynn Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Sands, which offer their clientele white-glove service, gambling accounts for about a third of their revenues. The remaining two-thirds comes from hotel rooms, restaurants, nightclubs, spas, pool parties, shows and other entertainment.

Will the stripped-down version of the city attract the visitors who previously came to party poolside during the day, rock out at concert venues at night and dance at nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning?

“Part of the reason these guys can charge $25 for a watered-down vodka soda is the energy and vibe around their resorts,” said Chad Beynon, an analyst at investment bank Macquarie Group. “If these clubs aren’t open and you’re not permitting the same party atmosphere, will people still come?”

For many, the point of Las Vegas is the antithesis of social distancing.

“Nobody comes to Vegas to spend time by themselves,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who is also a member of the medical advisory team for Gov. Steve Sisolak of Nevada. “It’s a place people come to be social with one another.”

Before Sisolak shut down all nonessential businesses in Nevada in mid-March, Las Vegas was booming. The city had been one of the last to bounce back from the financial crisis of 2008 that sent foreclosure rates on residential properties soaring and collapsed home prices in the region.

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Source: Star Advertiser