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Las Vegas casinos able to reopen next week, Nevada governor announces

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday night that he would allow casinos to reopen June 4, welcoming tourists to return to the glitzy gambling mecca of Las Vegas.

Reopening will include new rules on physical distancing and sanitizing

An aerial view shows the Las Vegas Strip on May 21, 2020. Casinos have been closed for about two months, but will be eligible to reopen on June 4. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday night that he would allow casinos to reopen June 4, welcoming tourists to return to the glitzy gambling mecca of Las Vegas.

"We welcome the visitors from across the country to come here, to have a good time, no different than they did previously, but we're gonna be cautious," Sisolak told reporters.

As part of a broad shutdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Sisolak took the unprecedented step 10 weeks ago of shutting casinos that typically draw millions of tourists to Las Vegas and power the state's economy.

By allowing the casinos to reopen, with new rules on physical distancing and sanitizing, Sisolak said Nevada would again welcome visitors but would be prepared to close down again if there is a spike in cases.

"We've taken every precaution possible. I don't think you're going to find a safer place to come than Las Vegas by June 4, with the protocols that we've put in place, than the testing that we've put in place, with the contact tracing that will be in place by that time," Sisolak said. "We're encouraging visitors to come and enjoy themselves and have a good time."

Sisolak made his comments after the Nevada Gaming Control Board held a meeting Tuesday on reopening casinos.

MGM Resorts confirmed on Wednesday some of its major properties would reopen on the earliest date.

The companies owning the largest casinos have endorsed providing masks and gloves, and physical distancing measures. But casino workers from across the country have expressed concern about returning to work without proper protection.

The Culinary Union, which represents around 60,000 Vegas workers, took the Nevada board to task for what it said was a lack of transparency in making "life-or-death decisions for front-line casino employees."

"Cocktail servers, food servers, guest room attendants, public area porters, bells and many others will be in direct contact with guests," the union said in a statement.

In addition to sensible policies on hand washing and physical distancing, the union wants to ensure that front-line workers are given regular testing as well as personal protective equipment where appropriate.

They are also calling for the daily cleaning of guest rooms, and say there are still many questions left to be addressed.

"What happens if someone who arrives in Vegas asymptomatic, develops symptoms here and decides to hole up in their room for a couple of days instead of asking for medical attention?" the union said.

The gaming board has suggested that up to 10 non-gaming properties could be employed to accommodate tourists who take sick while visiting, though plans have not been finalized.

Governor taking his own precautions

The precise economic wallop from the coronavirus for the tourist mecca is not yet quite clear. The Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing an industry consultant study, reported last month that visitors spent $34.5 billion US in southern Nevada in 2018.

Sports betting in March, when the bulk of the NCAA basketball tournament is usually held, was severely affected by the closing of the casinos and the cancellation of this year's tournament. Receipts at sportsbooks were 76.3 per cent lower than March 2019, the gaming board reported recently. A record $596.8 million was wagered in March 2019.

People walk out of a shopping mall where some restaurants have opened along the Las Vegas Strip devoid of the usual crowds Tuesday during the coronavirus outbreak. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

The governor's announcement came after he cancelled a planned news conference because he may have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus last week.

Sisolak said he learned earlier Tuesday that a workplace he visited last week has since had a worker test positive for COVID-19. The worker was not in the building at the time and the governor has shown no symptoms of the virus in the five days since his potential exposure, he said.

Sisolak said he planned to take a test for the virus Wednesday morning and would release the results when he has them.

The Democratic governor instead released a statement of his prepared remarks and held a phone call with reporters Tuesday night from the governor's mansion in Carson City, where he says he is quarantining until he gets results.

Along with the announcement on casinos and religious gatherings, the governor said he would allow gatherings of up to 50 people, while still asking people to wear masks in public and physically distance. Gyms, fitness studios, movie theatres, shopping malls and bars would be allowed to reopen May 29, but with restrictions.

Brothels, night clubs and strip clubs must remain closed.

With files from CBC News

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