Las Vegas becomes the eeriest city on earth after coronavirus lockdown.
On March 5th 2020, a Las Vegas man in his 50s became the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nevada. Eleven days later on March 16th, a man in his 60s (also from Las Vegas) died from coronavirus, The following day, Governor Steve Sisolak ordered that all non-essential businesses be closed for an immediate period of thirty days. Whilst the definition on ‘non-essential’ services has caused plenty of controversy across the State, most can agree that all of Sin City’s many casinos, strip clubs and bars fall into this category as well as those sidelines run to entertain adults seeking other sins! As a result, the nation’s playground has been transformed from the entertainment capital of the world to an eerie ghost town.
In this feature, we look at the timeline of the lockdown in Las Vegas including details of the most recent measures in place, when they might be lifted and the impact will outbreak will have on the local economy, including those working in adult entertainment.
Nevada (Finally) Announces Statewide Lockdown
Governor Sisolak officially declared a State of Emergency on March 12th 2020 that will remain in place until ‘the Chief Medical Officer notifies the Governor that the health event has abated and the Governor issues an order terminating the emergency’.
The declaration was duplicated around the country as the Unite States recognized the fact that COVID-19 was a serious threat on its shores.
The worst affected areas in North America remain the states of New York and California with both being the first to announce lockdown measures on March 19th and March 21st respectively. Across the United States, most regions are now under some form of lockdown orders or official advisory notice with Nevada being one of the last to introduce such actions.
Along with Florida, Maine, Texas and Pennsylvania, Nevada State Governor’s office finally issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1st which is effective until April 30th.
Under the current order, residents are restricted in the following ways:
- Travel outside home: Only for essential needs/work.
- Gatherings: People may not congregate in groups of ten or more.
- Business Closures: All non-essential places of work are closed.
- Quarantines: No statewide directive.
- Bars/restaurants: Take-out only.
- Beaches/parks: Most parks open for day use only.
The directive on the closure of non-essential places of works includes recreational, entertainment and personal-care businesses. Essentially, as far as Las Vegas goes this covers pretty much all the main venues.
No strip clubs, no bars, no malls, no gyms, no massage parlors, no poker halls, no movie theater and no casinos. Not to mention, no escorts, no strippers, no illegal street prostitutes and no sex clubs. Yes, even the city’s swinger communities have shut up shop for the foreseeable future.
The result has left locals astonished by the change in the landscape of the city known as the Entertainment Capital of the World. In the peak of the Spring Break season and on the approach to the Easter holidays, the city is usually bustling with tourists but, instead, the famous Vegas neon lights are all dimmed. Some casinos have placed signs at their entrance to notify customers they are closed whilst others have cordoned off their doors with yellow tape.
This isn’t the first time that that the Strip has closed with the lights last falling dark across Las Vegas in 1963 when JKF was assassinated but this is the first time when neither the casino owners or state officials know when the doors can re-open.
The initial directive given on March 17th was for a period of 30-days yet the most recent order is expected to remain in force until at least the end of April.
There are some who have criticized the delays in issuing such measures in Nevada with some cynically citing the economics of shutting down Vegas as being a prime motivation and not the health of the population. Some have gone further still and sardonically noted that the President’s own resort, Trump International Hotel, will stand to lose millions of dollars in revenue as a result of the closure.
Las Vegas Lockdown & The Local Impact
The population of the Las Vegas area is just 2.7 million, yet this small city hosts almost 41 million visitors every year. The whole economy is built around this industry and together with gaming and conventions, the tourism sector directly accounts for almost half of the employment in this region.
The loss of visitors to Las Vegas will hit the city hard and the local economy is certainly going to take a big hit.
The larger convention centers, casinos, hotels and resorts may well be able to ride out the storm but for those employees being furloughed and laid off, the financial outlook seems pretty bleak in the short and mid term. Not to mention those smaller businesses that rely indirectly on the tourist market.
Whilst the government is able to offer aid to those in employment, there are many whose livelihoods may not be covered by the state funding which is being made available.
The adult industry in the Las Vegas area is a diverse one and covers everything from erotic massage and stripping to escorting and (outside the city limits in places like Nye County) legalized prostitution in state licensed brothels.
It is estimated that legal prostitution alone in Nevada grosses around $70 million annually whilst illegal prostitution in Las Vegas is thought to generate over $5 billion!
For those women whose careers are in the sex industry and adult entertainment market, there is no guarantee that their incomes are protected or if they will have access to emergency financial aid.
Las Vegas: Post Lockdown Future
Known as the City of Second Chances, Las Vegas is sure to recover from the economic and social impact of the coronavirus….eventually. But how long will such a recovery take?
In the short term, the primary concern of all is to keep the population safe and the current measures including social distancing, self-isolation and non-essential business closures is part of a comprehensive strategy to tackle the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
However, simply mitigating the impact by protecting the vulnerable and slowing the transmission rate is just (at best) a delay tactic and the real solution to COVID-19 as a global crisis is twofold: building immunity and developing a vaccine.
Both of these measures take time and some scientific experts are predicting that the world can expect to be managing this health crisis for around 6-18 months. This is unlikely to mean staying at home for a year and a half, but governments are expected to introduce some form of rolling lockdowns and regular (but temporary) social movement restrictions in order to cope with the way the virus spreads.
Certainly, as far as Las Vegas is concerned, the current closure order is due to expire on April 30th but even if the casinos and bars all opened on May 1st…..who is going to be here to come through the doors?
With much of the world also operating under travel restrictions and a seriously diminished appetite in people wanting to go abroad, the tourism sector (globally) is going to take a long time to return to business as normal.
So, the road back to normality in Las Vegas is likely to happen in several stages.
Businesses serving the local communities will be the first to re-open and this will include smaller casinos, bars, gyms, taverns and malls. However, it’s extremely unlikely to include any of those resorts of venues on the Strip.
Totally isolated in the middle of the desert, Las Vegas may well be one of the best placed cities to get on top of the virus. It seems likely that without an incoming source of new transmission for a couple of months the city should get on top of confirmed cases over the next 6-8 weeks.
Conceivably then, the Strip and all of the associated leisure and tourism industries in Vegas could recommence operations by 1st June 2020.
However, there are some caveats to this and a limit to what this will mean economically in terms of a ‘recovery’.
Like New York, with its dense population of people coming and going from diverse geographic locations, the coronavirus thrives in crowded places. The Strip offers perfect conditions for rapid transmission with (during peak seasons) hundreds of thousands of people in a 4-mile radius and all converging in the same hot spots. Unlike New York, the vast majority of visitors to Las Vegas come by air which allows the authorities the perfect opportunity to set-up health screening check points in a bid to keep Sin City safe from new outbreaks.
With measures like this in place, the local community would feel safer about the city re-opening to tourists.
It will however take some time before visitor numbers come back to anywhere near the same level as pre-coronavirus times. People will need to feel safe travelling by air and the idea of being cooped up with 200 people in a plane for a few hours, not knowing where the person sitting next to you has been, will be a psychological hurdle to overcome. Not only that but people will need the financial means to travel and the current crisis is having a damaging effect on the incomes of many households across the United States and internationally.
In Macau, known as the Vegas of the East, the city closed for a few weeks due to outbreaks of COVID-19 but upon re-opening was only able to generate around 20% of its pre-coronavirus levels. The city also adopted screening measures at their borders as well as implementing some changes within the casinos themselves. Staff and visitors were all required to wear face masks and tables were restricted to four players maximum with no crowds of onlookers. Some venues also temperature checked their guests at the door.
Once Las Vegas is re-open for tourists, we can expect there to be a few changes. Maybe not on the scale of Macau but anything like this kind of approach would be a barrier to visitation.
As for the adult industries, they will only recover when the city does and the leisure and entertainment sectors need to take a lead to reassure both the local community and tourists that it is safe to come here.
The take home from all of this is the assurance that Las Vegas will come through this crisis but the road ahead may be a long one. But once it does re-emerge, the parties are guaranteed to be legendary! Until then , stay safe and stay home; Sin City looks forward to welcoming you in the future.
Featured image via Wallpaper Flare.