Vegas Returns to Normal as Regulators Realize Online is the Place to Be

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Several casinos in Las Vegas are now back to pre-COVID-19 operating levels, having met the state’s vaccination requirements for their workforces. Wynn Resorts returned to 100% capacity at its two Strip properties after showing that 88% of its workforce there had received the vaccine and the Cosmopolitan has now joined, as well. It was allowed to fully reopen after providing gaming regulators with proof that 80% of its workforce was vaccinated and will now be able to drop social distancing requirements and others that have been in place since the middle of last year. While Nevada’s venues are scrambling to recover, gaming regulators may have come to the realization that the iGaming segment deserves more attention and are reportedly discussing approving online casinos for the first time.

Vegas Moving Quickly Toward Recovery

It was only a few days ago that casinos in Las Vegas were able to consider increasing their capacities to 80%, although certain parts of Nevada were forced to keep COVID-19 restrictions in place a little longer. With the two Wynn properties and now the Cosmopolitan going to 100%, optimism for a summertime recovery is increasing. The Cosmopolitan issued a statement about the full relaunch, with CEO Bill McBeath explaining that he “could not be more proud” of the workforce for “doing their part” to protect Vegas.

The employees had an incentive to get vaccinated, which certainly helped influence the rapid return of the property to 100%. The Cosmopolitan put up almost $1 million in cash bonuses to employees who receive the vaccine, as long as they get their shots by May 8. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) showed its gratitude for the vaccination efforts, stating that the property had set a standard that all other properties should strive to reach. NGCB Chairman Brin Gibson wants Cosmopolitan’s executives to “share their methodology, strategy, and success with the wider hospitality industry.”

Nevada to Consider Opening iGaming Segment

Nevada has long been the casino capital of the US, if not the world, but it has also been very restrictive. Gaming regulators have kept a tight grip on what can and can’t be offered and, even as essentially the only state to offer sports gambling prior to the defeat of PASPA in 2018, sports gambling options were limited. However, it has become apparent that a different mindset is now fully in place, possibly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are gaming regulators relaxing the state’s sports gambling rules, but are going to consider the unthinkable – a legal and regulated iGaming market.

According to Howard Stutz of CDC Gaming Reports, the NGCB is going to hold a workshop next week to discuss the idea of allowing state casinos to launch online versions of their gaming activity. In addition, they are expected to consider allowing online registrations for mobile gambling – including sports gambling – and could ultimately approve the lifting of “provisions limiting interactive gaming to the game of poker.” Online poker is legal in the state, but the in-person registration requirement has severely handicapped the segment.

This workshop is just the first step and no vote will be held. However, it’s a huge step and an indication that changes are likely coming to Nevada. Before any final decision can be made, both the NGCB and the Nevada Gaming Commission would have to sign off on the changes before they could be implemented.

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