Monthly Archives: March 2020

Las Vegas Casinos Look to Reopen in May

The big question in Las Vegas at the moment is, “When will the casinos open again?”

The other big question is, “Did you know a roulette table could have 10 zeroes and still have better odds than live keno?”

Let’s focus on the first question, though. (See the bottom of this blog post for updates.)

The answer to “When will Las Vegas casinos reopen?” is “Nobody knows for sure.” That answer would make for a very short blog post, so let’s forge ahead.

Las Vegas is having a moment

Understatement of the year.

The coronavirus shutdown in Las Vegas has been brutal, of course. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak shut down casino resorts on March 17, 2020.

Update (5/7/20): The shut down was extended through May 15, but the Governor now says “phase one” of the reopen will start May 9, 2020. Casinos are not part of phase one.

The casinos are looking to a number of sources to determine when they might reopen, including public officials, medical experts and, not surprisingly, each other.

Governor Sisolak said the decision to reopen will “strictly be based on medical decisions, medical guidance and statistics.”

We called May 1 the over/under reopening date early on, and took a poll to see what vibe laypersons are experiencing.

When Las Vegas casinos open

In Vegas, everyone ends up on the poll.

We took the “under,” but the term that’s become ubiquitous lately is “fluid,” meaning nothing is certain, especially during very uncertain times.

No matter how the Vegas reopening timeline unfolds, there won’t be a lot of celebrating as Sin City is going to look like a shadow of its former self. (Although, we’ve been advocating a big Grand Reopening Bash celebration at some point down the road. Memorial Day on May 25 could fit the bill.)

Demand won’t instantly come flooding back, even if concerns about coronavirus subside. That means casino resorts will reopen in a phased approached, based upon demand.

Our vote is for casinos to open first, then hotels, restaurants and bars. There were rolling closures when the resorts closed, so there’s likely to be “rolling openings” as well.

Shows are going to continue to face challenges, as venues where large crowds gather, like theaters, will probably remain closed the longest. This is rough news for independent productions in town, but agonizing news for our beloved Cirque du Soleil, as the company is reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy.

The basics of social distancing will become a part of Las Vegas in the foreseeable future, no matter when casino doors open again.

We’ve heard from several sources resort employees will be called back to their jobs two weeks before the casinos open again, so that will give us all a heads up efforts to reopen are underway in earnest.

A visible change will be the phasing out of a time-honored Vegas tradition, buffets. At least two venues have buffets that won’t be coming back. Closed permanently are the buffets at TI (Corner Market Buffet) and Golden Nugget (The Buffet). The closure of Golden Nugget’s buffet is unrelated to current events, from what we understand.

The Bayside Buffet at Mandalay Bay is also rumored to be closing permanently.

The debate about when Las Vegas resorts should reopen rages on, especially in social media. Due to the shutdown, people have a lot of time to express their opinions on the subject, and opinions run the gamut.

What’s clear is we need to find a way forward, not just in Las Vegas but the country. We are going to have to make some collective decisions, based upon facts, not fear.

Our over/under date of May 1 seems a fair balance of concerns about public health and the reality we can’t implode our economy in an attempt to save every life.

Here’s one of the more thoughtful articles we’ve found grappling with this subject.

Our future is fraught with impossible decisions we’re thrilled we don’t have
to make.

Update (3/29/30): The federal government has extended social distancing guidelines to April 30, 2020. It’s unknown what impact that might have on the planned reopening of Las Vegas casinos. TheĀ guidelines, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are voluntary.

Update (4/1/20): Governor Steve Sisolak has issued a “Stay at Home” directive and extended closures of non-essential businesses (including casinos) to April 30, 2020. Unless something changes, Las Vegas casinos will be reopening May 1, 2020.

Update (4/19/20): Wynn Resorts is the first to release its reopening plan and policies. The company’s document suggests a mid- to late-May reopening for Nevada businesses, with myriad new sanitizing and other policies. Read more.

Update (4/24/20): Caesars Entertainment has changed its reservation system to take bookings from May 15, 2020. Several other casinos have shifted their reopen target dates as well: TI and Circus Circus, as well as Cosmopolitan, are taking reservations for May 15. Boyd Gaming (including Orleans, Gold Coast, Fremont, Main Street, California and others) are also booking May 15. Wynn and Encore have announced May 22. MGM Resorts has informed its reservations team the target date for reopen is June 1, 2020. In other news, Clark County’s wedding license bureau is reopening April 27.

Update (4/30/20): Governor Sisolak has extended Nevada’s stay-at-home order to May 15, 2020.

Update (5/7/20): Governor Sisolak says “phase one” reopening starts May 9, 2020. Businesses permitted to reopen (with restrictions) include restaurants, barber shops, hair and nail salons, retail stores and retail cannabis stores. All businesses are required to have employees wear masks during phase one. Get the latest news about when Las Vegas will be reopening.

Tropicana Las Vegas Sold Amidst Coronavirus Shutdown

The owner of Tropicana Las Vegas, Penn National Gaming, has sold the casino to its real estate investment trust (REIT), Gaming & Leisure Properties, Inc.

Penn National Gaming will continue to operate the resort.

Penn National will get $337.5 million in “rent credits” (the equivalent of five months rent) from Gaming & Leisure, its principal landlord. See the news release.

Tropicana hotel

The Trop has a history of drama, and this qualifies as that.

For comparison purposes, MGM Resorts pays $292 million a year in rent to Blackstone Real Estate for Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.

A sale of Tropicana has long been rumored. We know this because it was our rumor. No one could’ve predicted this turn of events, however.

The sale of Tropicana is largely due to “liquidity pressure” resulting from the coronavirus shutdown. Translation: Casino companies are taking it in the butt right now.

Always happy when we can help cut through the jargon.

What Penn isn’t saying is this move was probably driven by the desire to avoid a future bankruptcy. The company has additional assets it could shed, to that move doesn’t appear to be in the immediate future.

More bad news is on the horizon, as Penn (which operates 41 casinos in 19 states, including M Resort in Las Vegas) has said it will furlough about 26,000 employees starting April 1, 2020. The company will pay employees through March 31.

Here’s the letter sent to Penn National customers on March 27, 2020.

Penn National Gaming

Free vision test. You’re welcome.

The upshot of the unceremonious sale of Tropicana is guests won’t see any changes at the resort when they visit again. And everyone’s hoping that’s relatively soon.

Update (4/1/20): Before the ink could even dry on its REIT sale, Tropicana is rumored to have been sold for $307.5 million, or $52.5 million less than Penn National Gaming paid five years ago.

Las Vegas Convention Center Expansion Hits Major Milestones

In some refreshingly good news, the Las Vegas Convention Center continues to make headway with its expansion, including the underground transportation system from Elon Musk and the Boring Company.

The drilling of a second tunnel, part of the Convention Center Loop, is now underway.

Boring tunnel Las Vegas

How mature are we for not making a sex joke right now? Thanks to the LVCVA for the pic.

The tunnel system will transport convention attendees from one end of the Convention Center to the other, a distance of 4,486 feet. That’s 0.84962121 miles for the math nerds.

Passengers in the underground transportation system, expected to move up to 4,400 people an hour in Tesla vehicles. The trip will take about a minute, or the average duration of a lovemaking session with this blog. We blame it on the rum.

Elon Musk tunnel Las Vegas

Elon Musk’s tunnel will debut just in time for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2021. It’s a good time to be a nerd in Las Vegas.

The $52.5 million underground transportation system is on pace for completion by the end of 2020 but will officially debut in January 2021.

In another notable moment in the convention center expansion, crews just completed a massive concrete pour.

Workers poured 75 million pounds of concrete for a 600,000-square-foot floor and the time lapse video is supremely satisfying. Take a look.

The concrete used in the recent pour required 1,800 trips by concrete trucks, which is the most common means of transporting concrete, other than “in our pants.”

Another fun fact: The convention center’s new exhibit hall will be 328,000-square-feet, and the space will be column-free, making it the largest such space in North America.

Vegas doesn’t do small.

You can keep your eyes on the Las Vegas Convention Center expansion project, as well as Elon Musk’s underground wizardry, on Web cams pointed at the sites.

This cam points at the tunneling site.

This cam provides some sweet views of the new exhibit hall.

The LVCVA says the convention center expansion is 77% complete. Oddly specific, but we like it, especially given current events. We’ve had our fill of bad news lately, so it’s great to see a project moving forward, especially one that will result in drawing new business to Las Vegas.

More to come!

Big Elvis to Perform Show on Facebook So We Can All Feel Human Again

Being in Las Vegas during the casino shut-down has been a daily punch to the loins.

The good news is our buddy (and the world’s greatest Elvis impersonator) Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee, is doing a free, live performance on Facebook so we can collectively rekindle our love of Las Vegas all over again.

Vallee’s show happens Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 6:00 p.m. Vegas time, that’s 9:00 EST.

Pete Vallee

In Vegas, you know you’re awesome when Golden Tiki shrinks your head. We’re waiting.

Big Elvis has been enthralling fans for decades in Las Vegas, most recently at Harrah’s. Prior to that run, he was at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, now the Cromwell.

His final show at Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall was on May 1, 2012.

Vallee’s first show in Las Vegas was at the Sahara in 1980. A lot has happened since then, including Saraha becoming the Sahara again.

Pete Vallee

Pete’s blushing from all the well-deserved attention.

We’ve known Pete Vallee for ages, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer guy in Las Vegas. His fans are legion, and we count ourself among them.

It would be great if we could break the Internet logging on to catch Pete Vallee’s Facebook performance.

He’s the Elvis we need right now, so don’t miss it. Catch him live at Harrah’s when this mess is finally behind us. The Big Elvis show is one of our favorite free things to do in Las Vegas.

Vital Vegas Podcast, Ep. 107: Everything is Ruined

It’s the wrong podcast at precisely the wrong time, but you’re not our mom and we’re doing it, anyway.

While coronavirus isn’t the only thing happening in Las Vegas right now, it sure feels like it.

In this episode, we talk about the Las Vegas shut-down, the impact it’s having on the casino industry and what the future of Las Vegas is likely to be once the suck has subsided and the bugĀ  has moved on.

social distancing craps

Craps players rooting against the shooter are playing the “dark side.” They’re also referred to as “don’t” bettors, or “buzzkills.”

We also provide Captain Morgan-fueled answers to tons of questions from Twitter. What could possibly go wrong?

This might not be the most feel-good episode of the podcast, it’s not like you have anything better to do while you’re sheltering-in-place, so take a listen.

10 Things to Do During the Las Vegas Coronavirus Shutdown

All non-essential businesses in Las Vegas are closed as of March 18, 2020. That includes all the casinos.

As we slowly work our way through the stages of grief, we’ve also been asked, “What the hell are we going to do as we’re sheltering in place?”

Well, we may be on lockdown, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to keep busy and have fun while adhering to all appropriate social distancing guidelines.

Here’s our take on some things to do during the Las Vegas shutdown.

1. Watch Las Vegas movies.

This is the most obvious way to spend time during the “Great Casino Hiatus of 2020.” Watch “Ocean’s Eleven” a hundred times. There are lots of great movies featuring Las Vegas, with the exception of “Jason Bourne,” which was a steaming pile. See more. Other favorites include “Casino,” “The Cooler,” “Diamonds Are Forever” and “Showgirls.” Note: You have to watch that last one ironically.

Ocean's Eleven

When a movie’s so good, you can even forgive the worst accent in a movie, ever.

2. Learn to play video poker.

There’s never been a better time to hone a skill you can use when the slot machines are turned back on again. We suggest the WinPoker app to learn the optimal strategy for all the most popular games.

WinPoker

Losing fake money is 40% less painful than the real kind.

3. Build your Lego Las Vegas skyline.

Our Las Vegas skyline Lego set has been gathering dust since it was released back in 2019. We’re going to use some of our downtime to put this sucker together.

Lego Las Vegas Architecture

Do as we say, not as we procrastinate.

4. Dive into the Vital Vegas blog archives.

Look, we made it to number four before saying something self-serving, but seriously, we’ve been writing blog posts for seven years or something, more than 1,700 posts, several dozen of which are actually entertaining. There’s gold in those archives, so enjoy a month’s worth of rumors, speculation and copious snark.

PBR Rock Bar

It’s the first photo we thought of, sorry.

5. Install a stripper pole.

If you want to tap into the DNA of Las Vegas, there’s no better way than to install a stripper pole in your den. You can find tons of pole dancing videos online, and when we’re all allowed to interact again, you’ll have a new skill set you can use to pay off your mortgage in no time.

Pole dancer

Dance poles come in two sizes, prurient and non-prurient.

6. Collect Las Vegas memorabilia online.

Ebay and other e-commerce sites are a rabbit hole of classic Las Vegas memorabilia. You can find vintage chips and dice and swizzle sticks and ashtrays and shot glasses and just about anything else you’re looking for from long-demolished casinos like Stardust, the Sands, Riviera, Desert Inn and Hacienda. No serious fan of Las Vegas can call themselves that without a tchotchke collection of some sort, to get busy.

Las Vegas collectibles

Las Vegas collectibles are an inexpensive way to time travel.

7. Reconnect with your family.

Look, we know some of these suggestions are a long shot, but figured we’d throw it out there, anyway.

Coronavirus grandma

Please don’t think we condone all the things we write.

8. Read books about Las Vegas and its characters.

Yes, apparently, some people still read books. We don’t, unless they’re about Las Vegas. We love books about the casino business, like “Winner Takes All,” or those that highlight some of the colorful characters who have made Vegas Vegas, like “Blood Aces,” about Benny Binion. Do not read “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” please. This whole situation is already depressing enough.

Blood Aces

The more you know.

9. Listen to Las Vegas podcasts.

This is only a little self-serving, promise. Yes, we have a podcast, ranked the best in Las Vegas by several people from Minnesota, but there are lots of others nearly as good. Give them a try, and you may discover a gem you’ll keep listening too even after the casino closures are a distant memory. Here are some we listen to, but there are more, so explore.

googie 360 Vegas
googie Tipping the Odds Las Vegas
googie Vegas Never Sleeps
googie Faces and Aces
googie Matt & Mattingly’s Ice Cream Social

Vital Vegas Podcast

People say “unlistenable” like it’s a bad thing.

10. Have sex. Lots of sex.

Oh, like you didn’t see that a mile away. Yes, extended periods of time in our homes means lots of sex. Caveat: With a monogamous partner who tests negative. For, you know, everything.

condoms

We’ve been social distancing for some time, we just call it “rejection.”

While Las Vegas is facing some challenges at the moment, this town doesn’t
abide sulking.

We’ll be back and better than ever soon enough, and we’d love to hear what
you’re going to be doing with yourself during Sin City’s ever-so-brief hiatus.