The famed Bellagio fountain, the canals of the Venetian and the lights of New York-New York will all come to life again come midnight tonight, nearly three months after one of the most invasive and deadliest viruses to hit the globe stopped the dice from rolling and the cards from being dealt.
As of 12:01 am Friday, the coronavirus-induced closures that have kept Las Vegas and its hotels and casinos closed will end, with the likes of MGM Resorts (MGM) - Get MGM Resorts International (MGM) Report reopening its Bellagio, New York-New York, MGM Grand and The Signature casinos.
Wynn Resorts (WYNN) - Get Wynn Resorts, Limited (WYNN) Report pushed back its planned opening to daylight hours in a nod to ongoing nighttime protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, who was killed under the knee of a police officer.
Las Vegas Sands (LVS) - Get Las Vegas Sands Corp. (LVS) Report also will open on Friday, while Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Caesars Entertainment Corporation Report already reopened Caesars Palace and Flamingo as of Thursday morning Las Vegas time.
It will not be the same Sin City that took the unprecedented step of shutting down in mid-March as the deadly coronavirus made its way to U.S. shores. Disinfected dice, hand sanitizer, face masks, limited numbers of players at tables and temperature checks at entrances will all be part of the new Vegas experience - as will virus tests for workers.
“There’s a tremendous amount on the line, not only for casinos, but for the community and the state,” Alan Feldman, a longtime casino executive and now a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told ABC News. “This is an extremely important moment.”
With much of its fortunes resting on travel and tourism, Las Vegas has a long road to recovery ahead. The U.S. gambling capital hit its best-ever numbers last January and February, when taxable casino winnings were at $1 billion each month and unemployment was at an all-time low of 3.6%.
By April, unemployment reached 28.2%, the highest level across the country. Casino winnings were near zero.
For now, the biggest casino operators, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, are keeping a good swath of their properties closed, with convention halls, nightclubs, swimming pools and other shows and spectacles remaining dark as executives keep a close eye on the progression of the virus - and an equally close eye on the flow of inbound traffic from the skies.
For the latter, analysts do not expect a strong rebound anytime soon, given the city's dependency on mass social gatherings, in particular conventions, concerts and big-ticket shows - all of which rely on a steady stream of passenger air traffic, which most expect will take a much longer time to recover.