I visited three Las Vegas casinos this past week. The casinos were Wynn, Red Rock (Stations), and Sam's Town (Boyd) – three distinctive resorts spread out across the city which attract very different clienteles. But one fact applied to them all.
If pressed to describe the atmosphere out on casino floors, the one world I'd chose is....
It's not just that far fewer people are around and it's much quieter, now. The scene is downright eerie. Like a zombie movie. Perhaps I'm accustomed – spoiled, in fact, – by the sights, the sounds, and the excitement of Las Vegas, having lived and worked here for nearly 20 years. However, this was a feeling I'd never experienced before. I felt no urge whatsoever to sit down and gamble. My mission was to to pass through as quickly as possible and get out of there.
CV-19 has completely changed the Las Vegas landscape, and presumably the entire industry everywhere. Desperate to attract customers (i.e., gamblers) and address the public's valid concerns about their health and safety, all Las Vegas gaming tables have been retrofitted with large plexiglass acrylic dividers making casinos look like a cross between a bank and a jail visit. Players don't take seats so much as enter into what amounts to cubicles
I'm sympathetic to casinos during this unfortunate crisis, which have made sincere attempts to do the right thing, or at least come up with workable solutions to balancing health concerns with the need to stay in business. Certainly, thousands of casino workers need guests to come back, or else they'll be out of work. These dedicated professionals deserve an opportunity to make a living, so long as it's safe for them and the people they come into contact with.
Here in Las Vegas, casino companies reacted to the mandatory shutdown with an admirable (and quite unexpected) prioritization of people over profits. Near universally, all casinos shuttered their doors for more than two months, and didn't protest the restrictions, despite the shutdown costing unfathomable sums in lost revenue. I'm generally a cynic when it comes to casinos and corporations and their manipulative practices. Yet, in this pandemic, most casinos and their ownership have behaved responsibly and honourably.
Still, there's no way to put a positive spin on barren gambling pits and the sad-eyed looks of lonely gamblers strapped with masks shooting dice and pressing buttons. It all looks rather pathetic, frankly. Walking in between tables, one is tempted to shout out, "What the hell are you doing in here?"
The lack of a festivities isn't helped by no beverage service, which means alcohol is not seen on casino floors. Fearful of the potential for viral spread, it was determined that providing customary cocktail service was far too risky – for both employees and customers. Hence, a casino floor without a drink is sort of like watching a movie without popcorn.
It is quite possible that CV-19 future shock will gradually fade away. Perhaps gamblers will accept the new reality of masks and shields and games without liquor. In support of that argument, previous disruptions to our collective psyche didn't diminish the desire to visits casinos and gamble. Since 9/11, the North American casino gambling scene has exploded. This might be different – we shall see what happens in the weeks and months ahead.
That said, visiting a casino and gambling seems to be the least appealing of any entertainment option. Sure, we all want spectator sports to return. We long for the days and nights of dining out and spending time with friends. Many of us can't wait to gamble on sporting events and share a few beers together. But the appeal of gambling on a casino floor right now is non-existent. Who in their right mind would want to come to Las Vegas (or any casino destination) right now under these macabre conditions?
Until this pandemic subsides or a vaccine is discovered, the only occasions where I plan on visiting casinos is to dine occasionally at restaurants (provided they adhere to social distancing requirements) and/or make a sports wager, once the betting windows re-open. That's it.
For the life and death of me, I can't imagine why anyone would want to sit and play a game for a long period of time where the stakes might indeed be – life or death.
Headline Photo Credit: DailyMail.UK