Las Vegas casinos officially received the green-light to resume activities earlier this month, with much fanfare greeting the multitude of properties that swung open their doors once again.
As slot machines pinged, reels began their endless revolutions and cards whirred in the hands of dealers, the bright lights shone once again and Las Vegas roared back into action.
One of those was downtown’s El Cortez Hotel and Casino, billed as “the longest continuously operating hotel-casino in Las Vegas,” which, like its many counterparts, had to implement a series of safety protocols mandated by regulators and health professionals to ensure the protection of guests and employees alike.
Adam Wiesberg, general manager of El Cortez, has been speaking to SBC Americas’ sister site CasinoBeats; first addressing the difficulty in navigating the enforced closure period, particularly with it not being immediately clear when any normalcy would initially return.
He said: “It was extremely difficult from the beginning when we had to watch our valued guests and employees depart while we found ways to secure our 12 perimeter doors which had not been locked in almost 80 years of operation.
“Not knowing what the new requirements would be made it difficult to plan and make changes, but we followed the recommendations of health professionals and fortunately it worked out for us.”
Addressing the many adaptations undertaken in order to adhere to health and safety protocols to reopen its doors, he added: “We used the time to completely redesign the slot floor with space for social distance and we completed some other projects that are much easier with an empty casino.
“We worked section by section so that we could be ready when we got the green light to reopen and while we did cut it close we were able to complete all projects prior to reopening. Acquiring PPE, masks, gloves and especially hand sanitiser was very difficult and creating a new cleaning protocol with employee training was a challenge but we pulled together and got that done in time as well.”
As ‘Sin City’ entered first gear on the road to recovery, Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, lauded a “pivotal moment” when stressing eagerness to see and feel the “heartbeat” of American gaming “shine again”.
Wiesberg echoed those, while praising the loyalty and unity of the famous region: “Absolutely, we knew our loyal customer base would return quickly but a big part of our business is tourists who stay on the strip and make the pilgrimage to El Cortez for our liberal gaming and unique history.
“Las Vegas operators were encouraged by closely watching the regional tribal casinos reopen and we believe more strip and local casinos will now reopen which is great for everyone in Las Vegas. We all share guests and many of our great players are part of the local gaming industry so the more properties that open the better for us.”
After a positive start in the immediate period following reopening, El Cortez has its sights set on further reopenings throughout the property as more furloughed employees are welcomed back into fold.
“We opened at 8:00am on June 4 and by noon we had 200 slot players on the floor and a good amount of pit play. We have been pleasantly surprised in all areas as the opening weekend business was strong and we ended up selling out our 250 available rooms on Saturday.
“Given these early results we will probably open our other hotel sections this weekend and we have brought back even more of our furloughed employees,” he added on the casino floor footfall since resumption.
Before concluding with eyes firmly fixed on future relaxations and the return of those key international tourists: “I am confident that this is the temporary normal instead of the new normal and like everyone else I am eager to see these restrictions lifted.
“As great as the early signs of recovery are, once domestic and international travel comes back to full capacity we will see a huge boom as everyone flocks to Las Vegas again.”