It started as many pandemics do. At a market halfway around the world, a novel virus leapt from animal to human.
Within days, this new Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) mutated, enabling it to spread quickly from person-to-person. As bugs go, this is a vicious one – with a case fatality rate of 3.5% (much higher for older adults), everyone is on edge.
As we write this, over 100,000 worldwide have caught the bug. COVID has arrived in America, and while most infections are limited to clusters, rumours persist that it’s spreading at the community level.
What does all of this mean for Las Vegas? We’ll cover the impacts thus far, and expected effects in the months to come, in today’s article.
“Social Distancing” Measures Expected To Have A Massive Impact
Coronavirus spreads like any other cold bug. Hosts transmit it through droplets they sneeze or cough. COVID-19 can land on surfaces and survive for hours, and in some cases, days.
This news is terrible for casinos throughout Vegas. Playing chips, already among the dirtiest objects in a casino, is the perfect vector for disease transmission. Slots aren’t much safer – to spin the reels, players press a button or pull a lever.
As of March 9, Clark County has reported two presumptive cases of Coronavirus. That hasn’t, however, stopped casinos from mounting a vigorous response. For instance, the MGM Grand has closed its buffets. Many casinos have made hand sanitizer available throughout their facilities, and have been disinfecting high touchpoints, like escalator handrails.
Despite this, experts expect the economic impact of COVID-19 to be significant. Chinese tourists, who make up 4% of visitors to Vegas, are staying home at the moment. In Macau, revenues month-on-month are down 88%. And if the outbreak gets bad enough, government-mandated closures and/or sharply reduced travels could massively impact bottom lines.
Visitors Hopeful, Have Their Doubts
Despite the gloomy headlines, many tourists appear to be pressing ahead with their plans. With no desire to call off long-awaited vacations, people continue to arrive at McCarran International Airport.
Nonetheless, the arrival of the feared virus is playing on their minds. So while they are concerned, many have come prepared. A group from San Diego showed off their packs of hand sanitizer to local media. Meanwhile, a couple of Pittsburgh said they used wipes to disinfect the slot machines they played.
Others have opted to skip the casino floor entirely. While their partner games downstairs, they’ve opted to try out some Las Vegas online casinos instead. That way, they’re able to engage in real-money gaming, minus the risk of germs from infected chips.
This Too Shall Pass
Regardless of whether Coronavirus is contained or becomes a pandemic, one thing is for sure: There will be economic damage. For the next quarter or two, fears will significantly reduce domestic and international travel to Las Vegas.
Once officials sound the “All Clear,” though, we expect things will pick up quickly again. Las Vegas is all about living your best life. Once visitors feel safe, they’ll come back in droves.