MGM Resorts: COVID-19 Restrictions Could Soon Return to Las Vegas

4 min read

According to an internal memo sent to MGM Resorts staff, Las Vegas may soon bring back certain pandemic guidelines. If accurate, it could have a negative impact on the 2021 WSOP and the entire local poker industry.

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Will the Bellagio again be forced to add plexiglass dividers to the poker tables? (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

On June 1, Clark County, Nevada eliminated nearly all COVID-19 restrictions. In the poker rooms, the plexiglass dividers were removed from the tables, players were no longer forced to wear face masks, and the card rooms could again operate at full capacity. But it appears some of those recently removed health measures are coming back.

The Clark County Commission unanimously voted on Tuesday to once again require all workers in every business to wear a face covering. This only applies to employees and not to customers and guests.

Does MGM Resorts know something?

With the return of face masks for Clark County workers, many locals on social media are speculating that the county will take further actions to combat the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which health experts claim is more contagious than the original version. Those rumors gained some credibility thanks to an internal employee email sent from the MGM Resorts CEO.

In the memo, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle urged his employees to get vaccinated immediately. As of July 21, only 43.6% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, nearly 6% lower than the national average. Given the state’s low vaccination rate and the increased spread of the Delta variant, which represents over 80% of all Nevada COVID-19 cases, Hornbuckle expects the county to take action.

“This updated mask policy is an early example of how more restrictive measures could be reimposed if we can’t keep [coronavirus] case numbers sufficiently low,” the MGM Resorts CEO wrote.

Many Americans are hesitant to take the vaccine for health and political reasons. Numerous conservatives are convinced that the vaccine is harmful and, instead of trusting their doctors and health experts, they are taking the word of political propagandists who aren’t licensed epidemiologists. In response to the vaccine hesitancy, Hornbuckle shared some irrefutable statistics with his employees about the safety of the COVID-19 shot.

“If you are worried about vaccine safety or side effects, please know that 3.6 billion vaccine doses have already been administered globally and 338 million doses have been administered in the United States,” Hornbuckle writes. “As of this week, over 161 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — nearly half of the US population. This is a huge number of people who have already received the vaccine and are doing just fine.”

WSOP in jeopardy?

MGM Resorts casinos won’t be the only businesses impacted by reinstated COVID-19 measures. Poker rooms in Las Vegas, and all businesses, could suffer. And that includes the 2021 World Series of Poker, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 30 at the Rio.

As it stands, the WSOP has 88 bracelet events planned for Las Vegas, including the $10,000 Main Event, slated for Nov. 4-23. That’s just over two months away and vaccine rates in Southern Nevada remain stagnant while COVID-19 cases are rising — up 49% over the past week.

If the county is forced to reimpose pandemic restrictions such as social distancing and limiting capacity inside local businesses, that could spell trouble for the WSOP. Without being able to cram thousands of poker players into the Rio’s three giant convention rooms, some of the massive field events on the schedule (i.e., the $500 Reunion $5 million guaranteed event scheduled to begin Oct. 1) could be in jeopardy.

But, until Clark County officially reinstates COVID-19 restrictions, the WSOP staff is planning to go forward with its current 88-event plan.

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