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US gambling industry takes major hit as Vegas casinos forced to close

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Nevada governor Steve Sisolak has ordered a minimum 30-day shutdown of all state casinos, including other non-essential businesses, in an attempt to stem the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

“Today it’s clear additional steps must be taken immediately in order to slow the spread of this deadly virus in our state,” Sisolak said at a news conference in Las Vegas. “We absolutely must take this step for every Nevadan’s health and safety. Please, please take this seriously. Please stay home for Nevada.”

The move, which begins on March 18, is a major blow for Nevada’s main industry, gambling, which is anchored by the numerous casinos that line the Las Vegas Strip.

Many Las Vegas casino operators have already closed their doors due to the health crisis, including MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts. MGM has temporarily closed a series of its casinos across the United States as well.

Caesars Entertainment, meanwhile, announced it has temporarily shut down all its owned properties in North America. “It has become clear that we must take this extreme action to help contain the virus and protect the safety and well-being of our team members and guests,” said Caesars Entertainment chief executive Tony Rodio.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on March 15 that events or gatherings involving 50 people or more be called off for the next eight weeks.

Earlier this week, the 2020 National Football League Draft, which was expected to be a mass-participation event in Las Vegas, was affected by the Covid-19.

The NFL will conduct and televise the player selection process for the event on April 23-25, but all planned public elements in Las Vegas have been cancelled.

The Las Vegas Draft was scheduled to include a stage on the water in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino fountains, with players being brought to the dais by boat for an official red carpet event. The plan also involved closing portions of the Las Vegas Strip to traffic for the three days of the Draft and constructing the main stage next to Caesars Forum.

“This decision reflects our foremost priority – the health and safety of all fans and citizens,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “While this outcome is disappointing both to the NFL and to the Las Vegas community, we look forward to partnering with the [Las Vegas] Raiders, the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for a future NFL Draft as well as evaluating opportunities for other major NFL events in Las Vegas in the future, including the Super Bowl.”

The NFL is “exploring innovative options” for how the Draft will be conducted, per a press release.