HVS Las Vegas Casino & Hotel Market Outlook 2021
By Shannon S. Okada, Managing Director of Gaming with HVS
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Las Vegas economy has been extremely harsh given the market's reliance on visitation and conventions. Following five consecutive years of accommodating more than 42 million visitors, Las Vegas hosted just over 19 million people in 2020 (the lowest number of visitors since 18.1 million in 1989). While vaccination rollouts have begun in Nevada, measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus remain in place. Continued weak performance is anticipated through the first half of 2021. Thereafter, the recovery of travel and general economic performance is expected to accelerate as vaccines, medical therapies, and public confidence support the beginning of the return to pre-pandemic levels. Fortunately, construction is classified as an essential business in Nevada and has continued throughout the pandemic. New developments will contribute to the eventual recovery of the market.
On March 17, 2020, Nevada's Governor Steve Sisolak ordered the closure of Nevada's nonessential businesses and urged residents to implement social‐distancing measures to reduce spreading the COVID‐19 virus. The Las Vegas economy was devastated in April and May 2020 due to the shutdown of businesses. Governor Sisolak authorized certain businesses, including restaurants, barbershops, hair salons, and most retail businesses, to reopen with limitations beginning May 9, 2020, and Nevada began its emergence from the pandemic shutdown. Nevada's casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4, 2020, with restrictions. The initial guidelines from the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) for the reopening of casinos included requirements such as reducing casino capacity by 50%, physical distancing at slots and table games, using personal protection equipment (PPE), and cleaning surfaces frequently.
On November 22, 2020, Governor Sisolak ordered stricter requirements on mask usage and a rollback on permitted crowd sizes in both public and private settings given the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases. Requirements effective November 24, 2020, which remained in place through February 14, 2021, included the following:
- Masks usage when around someone who is not part of your immediate household, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Restaurants and bars limited to 25% capacity, with no more than four people per table; reservations are required, and no walk-ins are allowed.
- Gaming operations restricted to 25% capacity and operated pursuant to rules issued by the NGCB. Gyms/fitness centers, dance and martial arts studios, museums, art galleries, libraries, zoos, aquariums, arcades, racetracks, bowling alleys, miniature golf, and amusement/theme parks limited to 25% capacity.
- Public gatherings limited to 50 people, or to 25% of capacity, whichever number is lower.
- Private gatherings limited to ten people from no more than two households, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Indoor malls and retail stores allowed to operate at 50% capacity limit.
Due to declines in the number of active COVID-19 cases and the local positivity rate, changes to restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 were relaxed as of February 15, 2021, and included the following:
- Restaurant capacity increased to 35%, with no reservations required.
- Capacity at casinos, places of worship, gyms/fitness centers, dance and martial arts studios, arcades, racetracks, bowling alleys, and pool halls (and other venues providing similar activities) increased to 35%.
- Capacity at libraries, museums, art galleries, zoos, and aquariums increased to 50%.
- Public gatherings and event limits increased from 10 to 100 individuals, or 35% capacity. Venues eligible for large gatherings capped at 20% of total fixed seated capacity, with strict social-distancing requirements.
Beginning March 15, 2021, businesses operating at 35% capacity will be allowed to move back to 50% capacity, and public gatherings and event limits are expected to be increased to 250 people, or 50% capacity.
On January 21, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that adds safeguards to international travel and requires masks on planes, ships, and other public transportation. The executive order also requires international travelers to show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test before entering the U.S. and follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to quarantine once they arrive. International travelers are asked to stay home at least seven days if they get tested again, or ten days if they do not get tested. The CDC issued an order that took effect on February 1, 2021, requiring travelers to wear a mask on public transportation in the U.S.; specifically, passengers on airplanes, trains, buses, subways, ships, ferries, taxis, and ride-shares must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth from entrance to exit. Additionally, people must wear masks on the premises of transportation hubs such as airports, train and subway stations, bus and ferry terminals, seaports, and ports of entry. Masks must stay on while people await, board, travel, and disembark public transportation. While the new mandates could be the beginning of the return of international travel, the order may have only a minimal impact on Las Vegas visitation or COVID-19 infection rates given that Nevada has enforced public mask usage since June 2020.
As of February 21, 2021, Clark County had reported 224,597 COVID-19 cases and 3,798 related deaths, representing the majority of Nevada's total 291,145 cases and 4,882 fatalities. The state's two-week positivity rate, the percentage of people tested who are confirmed to have the disease caused by COVID-19, had decreased from a high of 21.7% on January 13, 2021, to 9.6% as of February 21, 2021.
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