By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Casino industry leaders and vendors experiencing a gambling resurgence following coronavirus shutdowns are meeting in person for an annual conference this week in Las Vegas – amid strict rules of mask and coronavirus vaccination – after meeting almost a year ago.
“We’re thrilled to be back here, live, in Las Vegas,” American Gaming Association chief Bill Miller said Tuesday as he greeted approximately 500 people in a ballroom. Chairs were spaced in groups of two, three, and four at the Global Gaming Expo at the Venetian Resort on the Las Vegas Strip.
“I mean, there’s nothing quite like getting together in person,” Miller said, calling four days with a huge trade show, breakout meetings and speeches “a lot better than being on. a Zoom call (videoconference) “.
“A year ago this room was empty,” he said.
The event at the Venetian Expo center has attracted 27,000 attendees in recent years. Gaming association spokesperson Allison Nielson said current attendance numbers won’t be known until later this week.
Participants submitted proof of vaccination, most through the Clear Health Pass mobile phone app, and received green wristbands to show they had complied.
Non-smoking advocates, at a separate event at the exhibition, highlighted the success they have had in convincing lawmakers in some states and administrators of tribal lands across the country to make casinos smoke-free, and described efforts to ban smoking at casinos in Nevada and, again, in New Jersey.
“Workers should never have to choose between a salary and their health,” said Cynthia Hallett, head of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
In Nevada, casino giant MGM Resorts International reopened the renovated Park MGM hotel, formerly Monte Carlo, a year ago as the first smoke-free location on the Las Vegas Strip. Many hotels prohibit smoking in rooms. But casinos are exempt under state law from public smoking restrictions.
In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy authorized a temporary ban on smoking in casinos under pandemic rules to expire in time for the July 4 vacation.
“I couldn’t believe that after a year of fresh air the smoke was coming back,” LaMont White, a 36-year-old casino dealer from Atlantic City, New Jersey, told reporters Tuesday. He said lawmakers should think about pregnant casino workers “forced to feed her unborn child second-hand smoke every day for a living.”
“I think they see us as numbers on a bill or a bottom line,” White said, “not as human beings with families who love and depend on us.”
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat who ordered Nevada casinos and most other businesses to close from mid-March to June 2020, and U.S. Representative Dina Titus, whose home district includes the Strip from Las Vegas, were the morning’s guest speakers, speaking about Nevada accelerating recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nevada casinos recorded more than $ 1 billion in house winnings for the sixth consecutive month in August, as gambling statewide continued to return to pre-pandemic levels, regulators reported state last week.
Tourism officials recorded nearly 3 million visitors during the month, up 95% from August 2020 but down just 16% from August 2019.
Nationally, Miller reported last month that casinos had their best second quarter in history in April, May and June, taking in $ 13.6 billion and putting it on track to eclipse its best year. of all time: $ 43.6 billion in 2019.
Titus, a Democrat, Nevada’s longest-serving lawmaker in Washington and a member of the Congressional Gaming Caucus, noted that hotel and casino closures in tourism-dependent Nevada have pushed the state’s unemployment rate to over by 30% in April 2020, the highest in the nation.
“We are back,” she said of a figure which is now 7.7% but still above the national average.
Titus also credited businesses and casino owners who have demanded their employees be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 tests to help ensure tourists, gamers and conventioneers can visit his hometown and stay healthy .
“If they come here, that’s the thing I think we really need to get back,” she said.
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