International edition
September 18, 2020

Las Vegas Sands said it will keep its properties open

MGM and Wynn shut down Las Vegas casinos

MGM and Wynn shut down Las Vegas casinos
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said any establishments that choose to stay open are expected to comply with restrictions aimed at “social distancing."
United States | 03/16/2020

MGM said they will cease casino operations on Monday followed by the hotel operations on Tuesday. Several employees at MGM hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip tested positive in a presumptive test for COVID-19 over the weekend. Culinary Union Local 226 is negotiating with the operators on extra protections for workers. Wynn Resorts said the two-week closure of the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore would start March 17.

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GM Resorts International announced on Sunday that it will be halting the operations of all of its Las Vegas hotels and casinos as the coronavirus continues its spread in Nevada. Wynn Resorts also said in a statement on the same day that Wynn Las Vegas and Encore would close for two weeks.

MGM said they will cease casino operations on Monday followed by the hotel operations on Tuesday. The Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York, Excalibur and Park MG will shut their doors, the company confirmed. 

According to Wynn Resorts' official figures on its website, the company's operating revenues over three months up to last September were $1.65 billion. MGM Grand posted net revenues of $3.2 billion over three months up to the end of 2019, the firm's accounts state.

Several employees at MGM Resorts International hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, including at least one at Luxor, tested positive in a presumptive test for COVID-19 over the weekend. On Friday it emerged two employees, one at the Luxor and another at the Wet Republic pool, tested positive. In a statement, MGM said they will not be taking any reservations prior to May 1. 

The announcement came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against holding large gatherings of more than 50 people for at least eight weeks to fight coronavirus. MGM Chairman and CEO, Jim Murren, said in a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the temporary closures are for “the good of our employees, guests and communities.”

“It is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression,” Murren said. “We will plan to reopen our resorts as soon as it (is) safe to do so and we will continue to support our employees, guests and communities in every way that we can during this period of closure.”

On Friday, the company told employees it would begin furloughs and layoffs, beginning “in areas most immediately impacted by the slowdown in demand.” The company also said that full-time employees who are being furloughed or laid off will be paid two weeks from their last day of work. All employees on the company's health plan will maintain benefits through June 30, according to the Review Journal. 

The Unite Here Culinary Workers Union Local 226 said it has new proposals for extra protections for workers. It is estimated 60,000 workers in Vegas have with union contracts, including MGM and Wynn employees. The Union is negotiating with Las Vegas casino resorts, spokeswoman Bethany Khan said Saturday.

Proposed protections for culinary workers and bartenders include paid sick days, no discipline for quarantined or sick workers and as much as six months of paid health benefits for those who are laid off. Khan said that Culinary Union contracts protect 60,000 workers in Las Vegas. Those agreements already stipulate that when business picks back up, workers will return to their jobs by seniority.

As of Saturday, health officials have announced 21 cases of coronavirus in Nevada. The progression of the virus prompted MGM to amp up their efforts after last week's actions to close buffets at all of its properties on the Strip. The company announced Tuesday that it was shuttering the all-you-can-eat restaurants, which started Sunday. It also temporarily closed its MGM Northfield Park property in Ohio as well as its casinos in Massachusetts and Maryland.

Buffets, where diners pay a flat fee and often serve themselves at various food stands with unlimited proportions, are a signature staple of most casinos in the gambling destination.

Sunday's announcement came the same day Wynn Resorts said in a statement that the two-week closure of the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore would start March 17 at 6pm. After the temporary closure, Wynn 'will evaluate the situation', according to a Sunday statement from the company.

Wynn had already planned to close its poker room as well as its race and sportsbook earlier this week, as the company began temporarily cancelling all large entertainment gatherings.

However, the Las Vegas Sands announced on Sunday it would keep the Venetian Resort Las Vegas and the Palazzo at the Venetian Resort open. In a statement, spokesman Ron Reese said: "Our property remains open and we will continue taking the recommended precautions necessary to keep our team members and guests safe. We will also be working with our team members impacted by the school closings in our community.”

The company said it was not considering layoffs or changes to existing health-care benefits.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Sunday that properties are making individual decisions about whether to close. Any establishments that choose to stay open are expected to comply with restrictions aimed at “social distancing,” Sisolak said, such as having no more than three chairs at table games, cleaning and sanitizing all gaming machines at least every two hours, and fifty percent occupancy requirements will be in force on casino floors and other resort areas. Additionally, only buffets staffed by servers may remain open.

Sisolak also said the state has not been provided with a sufficient number of testing kits, and that officials are working with the federal government to get more. Any Nevada residents who can should work from home, he said.

Meanwhile, Las Vegas has been hit hard by convention cancellations, a decline in visitation and layoffs at Strip resorts and related industries. MGM CEO said the company is “actively managing costs” to help protect its margins. “Efforts to contain the virus have resulted in cancellations or postponements of major conferences, festivals, and sporting events as well as a reduction in travel demand in Las Vegas and across the globe,” Murren said in a statement. “Our domestic resorts have been impacted in the near term primarily driven by increased cancellations in our hotel and convention bookings in Las Vegas.” Murren indicated that most of the cancellations are for dates in March and April.

David Schwartz, an expert on gambling and casinos at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said the toll on the industry will ripple through local economies, state budgets and anyone whose livelihood is reliant on hotels, clubs, gambling, food services and entertainment.

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