Nevada Pushes on with Occupancy Limit

Steve SisolakNevada has been suffering of late, owing to a reduced casino occupancy restriction, designed to help combat the spread of COVID-19. There had been hope that the current restrictions – which have been in place since just before Thanksgiving – might have been lifted over the Christmas and New Year period. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Nevada Governor, Steve Sisolak has just announced that the 25% reduced occupancy will remain in place until January 15, at the earliest.

A Governor Under Pressure

Sisolak is arguably one of the least comfortable state governors right now, coming in from flak from the casinos, as well as the mayor of Las Vegas. When introduced, the 25% reduced capacity restrictions were described as a pause or temporary measure. As so often happens to be the case with interim measures, they have become full-time now.

The governor may be in a tight spot, but so are Las Vegas’ casinos. No more than fifty persons can be in the audience or 25% of the capacity are permitted, depending on which figure happens to be lower. Sisolak must walk a tightrope between protecting Nevada’s economy, and the lives of its residents. The unenviable position the governor is in has been criticized on more than one occasion by outspoken Las Vegas mayor, Carolyn Goodman. She has, in the past, referred to the governor as a “dictator”.

Nevada’s Casinos Have an Up and Down Year

When the outbreak first occurred, Nevada went into a lockdown, and the casinos were forced to close. This caused a massive rise in unemployment and record losses for casinos across Nevada. By July, they were permitted to reopen. However, a sudden increase of coronavirus infections saw a 50% capacity restriction introduced. When this did not stem the flow, the governor decided to slap the casinos with a new “temporary” 25% occupancy restriction.

Sisolak has expressly stated that he does not necessarily care about the value or revenue of outlets during the current restrictions, although he does admit to worrying about the hundreds of thousands of staff who could be out of work. As much of Nevada’s income comes from tourism and hospitality, predominantly around Las Vegas’ casinos, the two issues seem to go together.

Some Casinos Choose to Close Their Doors

All casinos in Las Vegas have felt the pinch, and to compensate, some have turned to online casino gambling. Others have started to sell off their less profitable properties to rival developers and businesses. Some have decided that operating at 25% capacity is not worth their time, and results in the operator losing more revenue than they take in. As a result, they have closed their doors, terminating or furloughing jobs at the same time, which adds to the unemployment crisis. While Sisolak is understandably torn between protecting jobs and lives, the latest news that Nevada venues will be under restrictions is unlikely to go down well in Sin City.