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Crowds line up to pack into Las Vegas casinos as they reopen after coronavirus closures

Crowds of people lined up across Las Vegas late Wednesday night as hotel casinos across the city began to open from midnight for the first time since coronavirus closures.

After 78 days of shutdown, eager gamblers were seen rushing to get back to business in casinos transformed by new health and safety measures to combat the spread of the virus.

All staff wore masks or face shields as they returned for the first time since March 18 and gamblers were stationed further apart at tables as part of the new protocol. 

Many casinos have also constructed glass partitions between slot machines and gamblers at tables to keep them apart. 

Many of the guests pictured appeared unconcerned with the threat that the coronavirus could still pose, however, and crowded together without masks to get inside. 

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Crowds line up outside The D Casino to count down to midnight when revelers can return to gambling for the first time in 78 days. The casino reopened at 12.01am after closing because of coronavirus on March 13

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A D Casino employee is seen wearing a face shield on the first night of reopening. Employees must wear masks or a face shields under new safety requirements imposed to stop the coronavirus spread

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Two gamblers at the newly reopened D Casino elbow bump as they observe social distancing 

Hotel-casinos in suburban Sin City planned to be first to open at 12:01 a.m., followed later in the morning by a restart of the iconic Bellagio fountain and reopenings of many neighboring resorts on the Las Vegas Strip.

Wynn Resorts, the Venetian and Palazzo are slated to open Thursday morning, along with the landmark STRAT casino and tower, Derek Stevens' downtown properties and others around Las Vegas owned by Boyd Gaming and Red Rock Resorts.

The biggest casino operators, MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment, won't immediately open all their Strip properties. Executives said they want to see how many show up.

MGM Resorts International is only opening the Bellagio, MGM Grand, New York-New York and Signature this week with Excalibur to follow June 11.

Caesars Entertainment is reopening Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Harrah’s. 

The D Casino and Hotel was one of the first to open with masked staff ready on the floor and counting down to midnight. 

Outside on Freemont Street, guests also lined up to count down and as 12am hit, the crowd began to push forward. 

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: People prepare to enter The D casino in Downtown Las Vegas as the clock strikes 12:01am and the city opens up gaming to the public. Casinos across the state can reopen from Thursday if their safety plan  is approved 

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A go go dancer wears a face mask as she entertains people as they prepare to enter The D casino in Downtown Las Vegas which reopening just after midnight on Thursday for the first time since March 18

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Red Rock Resort, pictured,  was among the Vegas  hotel casinos to reopen after midnight Thursday

LAS VEGAS STRIP: An infrared camera used to measure employee's temperatures is set up at an employee entrance at the Bellagio hotel and casino on the Las Vegas Strip which is scheduled to reopen post coronavirus shutdown Thursday

According to Fox, the casino welcomed close to 2,000 guests with a free one-way flight to Las Vegas, with no obligation to stay at their property or sister location, the Golden Gate. 

All guests were required to receive a temperature check before they picked up their champagne at socially distance counters. 

Inside, slot machines were placed further apart as social distancing was encouraged. 

The reopenings come as Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, continues to have the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the state. 

According to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, there are 8,935 cases of coronavirus in the state and there have been 429 deaths. 

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Workers clean a railing at the Red Rock Resort. Hotel casinos in Nevada can reopen from Thursday but only with extra health and safety measures such as extra cleaning and social distancing in place

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A go go dancer entertains patrons on the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas as they waited late Wednesday night to visit the newly reopened casinos post coronavirus shutdown

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Dealers in masks wait for customers before the reopening of the D Las Vegas hotel and casino on Wednesday night. The staff were seen counting down to midnight before guest burst through the doors

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: Happy gamblers celebrate their first wins in downtown Vegas casinos in months. Pictured John Landin of Las Vegas celebrates his win at a blackjack table in The D Hotel early Thursday morning

Of these, 355 deaths were in Clark County where there are also 6,923 cases, as of Thursday morning. 

The previous day it had suffered nine more deaths and 78 new cases. 

This was the below daily average of just over 82 new cases in the preceding week. 

The hospitalizations rate in the county has also continued to decline over the past four days, as has the infection rate, according to The Las Vegas Review Journal.  

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: The beginning moments of reopening night of Las Vegas on Freemont Street  in the early hours of Thursday morning as The D hotel is packed with go go dancers wearing masks and shields but guests leave faces uncovered

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A monitor above a row of slot machines displays COVID-19 safety messages at the Red Rock Resort

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: A busker entertains patrons on the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas as the hotel casinos began to reopen on Thursday. Crowds lined up to gain entry after the stroke of midnight

DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS: : A sign posted near slot machines displays a message for guests about cleaning the machines at the Red Rock Resort as it opened for the first time in 78 days on Thursday

While new cases and deaths from coronavirus are not rising dramatically in Nevada, they are also not falling. The state has maintained a steady average of new cases a day over the past month.   

There are big hopes for recovery as casinos are allowed to reopen across Nevada from an unprecedented and expensive shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

'There's a tremendous amount on the line, not only for casinos, but for the community and the state,' said Alan Feldman, a longtime casino executive now a fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

'This is an extremely important moment.' 

LAS VEGAS STRIP: Chairs sit on pallets as some are being removed from electronic slot machines to maintain social distancing between players as Caesars Palace hotel and casino prepared before reopening on Thursday

LAS VEGAS STRIP: Las Vegas and Nevada began reopening at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday but many of the main casinos on the Strip held off until morning. Pictured a lone worker wearing a mask cleans a pedestrian walkway devoid of the usual crowds

LAS VEGAS STRIP: Chairs have been removed from some machines to maintain social distancing between players at a closed Caesars Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas as it prepared to reopen to the public from Thursday

Casino resorts that had been famously always open were shuttered in mid-March after Gov. Steve Sisolak's emergency order closed nonessential businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Property owners, state regulators and Sisolak, a Democrat who has been criticized for the closure, are balancing health concerns against the loss of billions of dollars a month in gambling revenue and unemployment that topped 28 percent during an idled April.

They're betting that safety measures - disinfected dice; hand sanitizer and face masks; limited numbers of players at tables; temperature checks at entrances to some resorts; touchless cellphone check-ins - will lure tourists back.

Station Casinos properties are using slot machine icons with customer advisories to 'Touch buttons. Not faces, and 'Stay Reel Healthy.'

'I'm optimistic that customers will see that gaming properties invested time and effort to welcome them back to a safe and entertaining environment,' state Gaming Control Board chief Sandra Douglass Morgan said Wednesday. 

New daily coronavirus cases in Nevada, pictured bottom, are not rising but are also not dropping, holding a steady average

Coronavirus deaths in Nevada have remained low over the past two weeks but continue to have sudden spikes

The regulatory board required detailed health safety plans by last week, before giving the go-ahead to reopen.

Morgan didn't specify if any plans were rejected, saying agents 'communicated concerns or asked for clarification' from an unspecified number of the state´s 459 licensed casinos.

The board also regulates nearly 2,000 bars, restaurants and convenience stores that have no more than 15 slot machines.

It won't quite be business as usual as the iconic Bellagio fountains dance back to life. Analysts like Feldman think it will take a long time to recover.

'This is going to be a pretty long, slow climb,' said Feldman, who was with MGM Resorts when Las Vegas experienced an abrupt air travel stop after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and later a crippling plunge in business during the Great Recession over a decade ago. 'I´m hopeful it is a consistent climb, without setbacks.'

Recovery from the recession took years - reaching best-ever numbers last January and February, when taxable casino winnings were at $1 billion each month and unemployment was at an all-time low of 3.6 percent.

By April, unemployment reached 28.2 percent, topping figures in any state even during the Great Depression. Casino winnings were near zero.

The first to arrive are expected to be area residents, then motorists from nearby U.S. states followed by air travelers. 

'The market still relies heavily on air traffic, and the longer stays in Vegas are usually tied to mass social gatherings, including conventions ... concerts and fights, all of which may take longer to recover,' UBS analyst Robin Farley said.

Convention halls, nightclubs, swimming pool parties and arena spectacles will remain mostly dark.

'It may be a little different,' MGM Resorts International chief executive Bill Hornbuckle said during a recent walk-through of the Bellagio casino floor. 'But I think it will be memorable, personable and special.'  

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