Las Vegas Is Reeling

Job losses unprecedented in a city built on hospitality and tourism
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2020 9:55 AM CDT
Updated May 2, 2020 4:00 PM CDT
Las Vegas Is Reeling
In this April 19, 2020, photo, sheets cover electronic slot machines at a casino shuttered due to the coronavirus in Las Vegas.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

New York City may be the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in terms of illnesses, but when it comes to job losses, the New York Times declares Las Vegas to be "ground zero." The broad strokes are simple enough: About a third of the local economy is tied up in the leisure and hospitality industry, and hundreds of thousands of workers in the state have suddenly found themselves without an income. Coverage, including tentative casino plans on reopening:

  • The numbers: In the roughly five weeks the industry has been shut down, more than 340,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits, reports the AP. That's about a quarter of the local workforce, and it doesn't include the self-employed, gig workers, or those unable to get through to the clogged unemployment system. Generally, these are working-class people among the least prepared to cope with a prolonged layoff, notes the Times.
  • The contrast: Before the pandemic, Nevada had one of the fastest-growing economies in the nation. Then, poof—everything shut down. "From an analytical standpoint, this is unprecedented," an analyst with Applied Analysis, a Vegas economic research firm, tells the Times. "We have no frame of reference for what we are seeing."

  • Mayor vs. governor: Vegas' independent mayor, Carolyn Goodman, took much flak when she pushed for the governor to allow her city to reopen, even if it meant people got sick. She said Vegas could be thought of as a "control group." But Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak says he won't make workers choose between their health and a paycheck, and he wants to see a steady decline in numbers before giving the green light. Numbers are still ticking upward, however. Nevada had 4,638 confirmed cases and 206 deaths as of Monday, per a Times database. Clark County, where Vegas is located, accounts for the vast majority of those cases.
  • The casinos: They're preparing for a new normal when allowed to reopen, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Expect thermal cameras at entrances for temperature checks, limited seating at gaming tables, masks, more space between slots players, and social distancing measures at restaurants and entertainment venues.
  • Reservations: Wynn Las Vegas has begun accepting reservations for Memorial Day weekend (Memorial Day itself falls on May 25), while Caesars Entertainment Corp., Boyd Gaming Corp., and Station Casinos were accepting reservations for their Vegas hotels starting May 15, per the Review-Journal. Generally, the idea is to have reservations in place for whenever the governor allows them to reopen. Others, including the Venetian and the Palazzo, weren't yet accepting reservations.
  • The fear: The Review-Journal notes that skepticism exists even among laid-off workers. "I don't feel comfortable going back to work, especially because I'm older," says a 55-year-old poker dealer. "[Some] want to get back to work and make money, and I don't care. My life is more important to me." But others (think waiters, bartenders, hotel cleaners, etc.) say they have no choice because money is running out. The Times notes that cars begin lining up at one of the biggest food-distribution sites at 4am, more than six hours before it opens.
(More Las Vegas stories.)

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