In contrast to its rollicking reputation and "anything, anytime" ethos, Las Vegas resorts and casinos are crafting a methodical, safety-first reopening beginning June 4.
The new spirit is conveyed in a 30-second commercial rolled out by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on May 18. Titled "Reimagined," the spot features intimate settings and outdoor recreation without the large gatherings still not permitted amid the pandemic.
"The world has changed, and Vegas is changing with it," the narrator says. "So, if you ever imagined a Vegas that was just for you, it's only here."
"It's a starkly different tone, for sure, than previous Vegas spots," Desert Companion editor Andrew Kiraly wrote in the southern Nevada magazine's blog discussing the commercial. "A kind of clear-eyed earnestness versus the bacchanalian exceptionalism we usually promote."
No nightclubs or day clubs will be permitted to open during this phase, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement he released on May 26 to announce the reopening of hotel-casinos on June 4. The bans on sporting events with fans or theatrical performances with guests remain in place, Sisolak said.
With the variety of health and safety protocols announced in the past month and promoted on each resort's website, visitors will be strongly encouraged to wear face masks and expect only a portion of the Strip's vast hotel-casino offerings to be open in the first weeks.
For example, Caesars Entertainment will reopen only the two classic hotels -- Caesars Palace and the Flamingo -- of its nine properties in Las Vegas to start. Of MGM Resorts International's nine Strip resorts, only Bellagio (with its iconic Fountains again dancing), New York-New York and the Signature at MGM Grand (an all-suites, nongaming hotel) will be operating as of June 4.
Each property's health and safety plan must be submitted seven days in advance and be approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the governor's office before casinos can resume operations.
"At opening, amenities at all properties will be limited," MGM Resorts officials said in a statement on May 27. "As demand for the destination builds, additional venues within these resorts will open, and other MGM Resorts properties on the Strip will reopen."
Different pricing structures may also be instituted to welcome guests back in the scaled-down resorts, according to Alan Feldman, a casino industry veteran who is now a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming for the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).
"They're not going to be able to have all the bells and whistles, certainly not right away. So, naturally, you will have different pricing structures simply because they're not going to have the same cost structure," Feldman said in an interview back in April. "Yes, there will be value to be had, if you define value purely as price. There are going to be lower prices, for sure."
In a nod to the importance of welcoming regional markets and creating more value for customers, resorts have suspended the parking fees that have been more common at self-parking garages in the past few years.
"The first phase is people who can drive to us: Arizona, California and Utah," Robert Lang, professor of public policy in the Greenspun College of Urban Affairs at UNLV, said in an interview May 11. "Then [will be the] national market for the Strip [when] domestic air travel begins to start up again in big numbers. And, finally, when the government feels confident, there'll be international tourists in the city again."
Caution will be paramount, Lang said, both in the city's messaging and operations; the last thing the city would want, he said, was somebody being infected with the virus and then spreading it when they return to their hometown; this is clearly the antithesis of "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas."
"That's the worst reputation the city could have," he said. "And that's one that is so concerning to people in senior positions in the resort industry that they'll err on the side of caution for that reason."
Feldman said he has confidence in the LVCVA's marketing ability through the years, segmenting the audience and targeting messages.
"One of the things that Las Vegas has in its favor, different from many other markets, is the incredible brand equity that it brings to this equation," Feldman said. "It is one of the few cities in the world -- and there really are only a handful [where] you just say the name almost anywhere and people will know what you're talking about."