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Casinos Aim To Rebound As Las Vegas Returns To Full Capacity

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Las Vegas reopens today. Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, is lifting all remaining restrictions on bars, restaurants, casinos and large gatherings. And the county says fully vaccinated people can take off their masks in many places. Now, this comes after an extraordinarily difficult year for the tourist city. Unemployment rates there reached record highs of nearly 30%. So as the city opens back up, we're checking in with Howard Stutz. He reports on gaming and tourism for The Nevada Independent and joins me now.

Welcome back.

HOWARD STUTZ: Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

CORNISH: So let's talk about the reopening and just the mood. Are we talking buffets or, like, what is the deal in terms of how people are feeling about this?

STUTZ: Well, if you looked on the strip this week and looked this weekend over Memorial Day, it looked like nothing ever changed. I mean, it was packed crowds along the strip and even especially the drive back to Southern California was like a 12 hour, you know, it was like long, long lines, 12-hour wait or something. It's just - it was crazy. So it was obviously a lot of pent-up demand to come back. And this has been going on since March. There was some - right around the time of March Madness and when the basketball tournament started, casinos went up to about 35% capacity. So it started to pick up. And it's been doing this over the last, you know, last couple of months. So now we'll see where things go. But you get back to buffets, some buffets have reopened. Some properties have not reopened buffets and don't plan to. And so that's just - that's going to be - it's going to change here a little bit the way operations are moving along.

CORNISH: This gets at the issue of employment, right? We mentioned that figure of 30%. So things have changed dramatically. Did those jobs come back?

STUTZ: Well, the casinos at the beginning, you know, like in March, were trying to get workers back. I mean, companies - there were multiple, multiple job fairs going on up and down the strip. Even companies such as Sands Corporation that owns the Venetian, they've never held a job fair in their 20-year history and actually held a job fair to bring in employees. A lot of it that seems like - that worked at this point, there weren't - didn't hear much in terms of complaints yet. I mean, it looks like the casinos are trying to staff up. Big question coming up in the next three weeks, Resorts World Las Vegas, the first all-new resort on the Strip an - you know, since 2010 is going to open. They're hoping to hire 5,000 people. So that's cutting into this base.

CORNISH: Does that mitigate the loss from closures? I mean, if you think about something like Caesars Entertainment, they closed. That's - smaller entertainment venues.

STUTZ: Well, no. Yeah, the entertainment - if you're talking about the entertainment itself, those, like the shows and everything, haven't come back yet. Those are still - it's still very small, like the very small - like lounges are open, but the big entertainment venues are not open yet. We'll see like the Cirque shows maybe in July, August and going on to the year. Resorts World is a whole new property, and it's - that's going to add to the competition in the market. So we'll see where that goes.

CORNISH: That's Howard Stutz reporting on gaming and tourism for The Nevada Independent.

Thank you for your reporting.

STUTZ: Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.