Over the last few decades, I’ve visited Las Vegas scores of times, often for professional reasons. At the risk of dating myself, I still have plastic cocktail stirrers and matchbooks from most of the casinos that were imploded.
Without being cognizant of the impending timing at the moment, I was there in March 2020. I left just before the March 17 shutdown that was initially expected to be a month-long response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic but wound up turning Vegas into a post-apocalyptic ghost town for months.
The reopening of the Nevada casino industry, including the famous Strip and downtown’s Fremont Street, occurred in stages with June 1, 2021, a milestone date for businesses returning at full-throttle, meaning 100% occupancy.
Lately, the COVID virus’ Delta variant forced a return to a masks-on policy in public places indoors, including in casinos.
Regardless of some anticipated inconveniences, for me, it was time to return to Las Vegas. I was far from being the only one to get the itch.
In fact, for several months beginning in the spring, visitors have been finding their way back to Vegas – as evidenced by Nevada’s gaming revenue numbers. In July, Nevada posted its fifth straight month of gaming revenues topping $1 billion. The July figure was $1.36 billion, a single-month record that beat May’s $1.23 billion.
Lingering Evidence of COVID-19 Lockdown
Yet, the numbers aside, this is not quite the same Las Vegas I left in March 2020. The pandemic has left its fingerprints. Some restaurants and shows that were shut down by the pandemic were still not re-opened and some are gone permanently. There is a noticeable absence of international visitors because travel restrictions are still an impediment.
There’s an emphasis on no-touch protocols from mobile hotel check-ins to QR codes on restaurant tables for diners to see menus. Businesses, including