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Ask the Slot Expert: Should I come to Las Vegas in late August?

5 August 2020

Question: I had to cancel my March LV vacation, casinos closed. I want to plan for a late August trip, but from all your observations, the increasing Covid numbers daily, I worry that LV will AGAIN get shut down, or at least be restricted some more.

The bar shutdown thing is a sign that the Governor is thinking of more, tighter rules to keep people from "being sloppy with guidelines" (it happens, I see it everyday here in Chicago).

My biggest concern is not getting the experience I normally enjoy: going where I want to game, eating where I like to go, etc. For me, this is my vacation, my escape, my play time. Unfortunately, I must also make the trip solo, since others cannot afford to self-quarantine when they come back to Chicago. I work remote, anyways, so that is not an issue. I stay downtown with the Boyd properties, usually, but visit other Boyd and Station properties. So much for the Tuesday Senior specials at buffets or getting a sushi fix at Makino's. I just am not sure.

Hoping you can give me some advice, after all you live there. I have gone to one casino here at home once in 6 months, normally 1-2 times/week. THAT experience wasn't terrible, but I'd rather have my Vegas adventure!

Answer: Who knows how things will be in the future?

My sister-in-law planned a big family reunion on Hilton Head Island for this week. In early April when we had to back up our reservations with deposits, she sent an email saying that we should postpone until next year, "out of an abundance of caution." "There is no treatment for the viral infection, no vaccine, and as of yet, no widespread surveillance testing. Travel, and large group functions, will place people at risk of disease, and may work to further spread disease."

My sister-in-law is a doctor.

Also around this time, I was due to take some follow-up medical tests. My doctor said to schedule them in two months, maybe we'd have control over the virus then. We didn't expect the situation to be worse in late June when I had the tests, and worse still a week or so later when I had the follow-up visit to get the results.

This is a very timely question. Just yesterday (8/3), Governor Sisolak had a press conference to describe changing Nevada's response from a phased approach to a more surgical and regional approach. Different counties may have different restrictions. In addition to regional restrictions, different types of businesses might have more restrictions (e.g., bars will remain closed in certain counties) than others.

I'm a bit skeptical of regional approaches because the virus doesn't respect borders. Also because of the lag between being infected and being contagious and being symptomatic and being diagnosed, by the time the data says you have a problem, it's too late to control the spread.

Still, should the residents of a rural area that has few if any cases need to be as cautious as an area with more cases? And further still, Dr. Birx said that the virus is widespread and no area is immune.

There are no really good options for controlling the virus, but some options are better than others.

Will Nevada close its casinos again?

In this article in the Reno Gazette Journal, Dr. Brian Labus, who sits on the governor's Medical Advisory Team, said that from a public health standpoint, the casinos should be closed.

But overall, the answer is more complicated.

In New York state, the commercial casinos are deemed non-essential and will remain closed for the foreseeable future. The commercial casinos aren't a large part of the state's economy and they employ relatively few people.

In Las Vegas, on the other hand, while the service provided by a casino is unquestionably non-essential, the casino industry is a major part of the economy and casinos employ a large number of people. The calculus is different for Las Vegas vis-a-vis New York or any other state.

An apt analogy might be theme parks and Orlando.

The governor has to weigh the costs and benefits of closing versus remaining open and pick the less worse option. I'm glad I don't have to make the decision.

So far -- and that is key, so far -- there have been no outbreaks tied to a casino. As long as that's the case and Nevada has the hospital capacity (I don't know about you, but I'm not really comforted by knowing that there's an ICU bed and ventilator available if I need them -- I'd rather not get infected!) and our numbers are stable or falling, I think the casinos will remain open.

I saw something happen in Red Rock a few days ago that I really liked. A man was sitting at a machine with his mask around his neck. He wasn't drinking or smoking, just not wearing the mask. A slot floor person told him (from a distance) that he had to put the mask on. He did and she gave him a thumbs up. Then she noticed me watching, so I gave her a thumbs up.

The governor made a mistake by not requiring masks in casinos right from the reopening. A growing chorus is calling for a temporary ban on smoking and, perhaps, drinking on the casino floor. The idea is that people should be masked 100% of the time on the casino floor.

I'm glad you mentioned Boyd and Stations. It's not an informed opinion because I have not been to a strip or near-strip casino since reopening, but news reports and message board posts indicate that mask usage is still a bit higher in locals casinos than tourist casinos, despite being mandatory everywhere.

Your biggest concern is my biggest concern for you too. You can still go wherever you want to go, as long as it's one of the casinos that reopened; you can still play whatever you want to play, as long as it's not too close to someone else; you can still eat wherever you want to eat, as long as it's one of the restaurants that reopened. You can still stay at a hotel, you can still play machines and table games, you can still eat, you just may not have as many options as you had in the past.

Some people say that the experience is not the same now.

I guess there's no advice in my reply. The decision is all yours. Let me know what you decide.


My offers this month reflect the lower level of play I gave in June and early July. Free play at one chain was cut in half, which actually isn't all that bad because my action was considerably less than half what it was before the shutdown.

My latest Boyd mailer (Suncoast-specific) doesn't mention Young at Heart at all. I checked both the Suncoast and Gold Coast websites and I couldn't find Young at Heart on either of them. I'm not going to be able to make it out today (8/4) to check whether Suncoast still has the promotion and it just wasn't promoted in the mailer (which has never happened before).

Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases. When the news only reports totals in its graphics, they're not telling us how the numbers are changing day to day or week to week. We don't know if the trend is up or down.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
08/04 4,698,818 155,204 51,422 874 418,683 7,532 7,367 109
07/28 4,280,135 147,672 44,055 764 460,996 7,042 7,130 91
07/21 3,819,139 140,630 36,195 674 463,682 5,395 8,181 57
07/14 3,355,457 135,235 28,744 617 422,861 5,102 5,607 57
07/07 2,932,596 130,133 23,137 560 351,367 3,394 5,006 24
06/30 2,581,229 126,739 18,131 536 278,941 6,406 4,367 26
06/23 2,302,288 120,333 13,764 510

Please keep sharing your experiences with casinos in this new era. Have your offers gone down because you've been playing less? Has Young at Heart disappeared from your Boyd mailers too? Has your casino tried a need-not-be-present drawing? If masks are required, are players wearing them? Are casino employees enforcing the mask policy?

How well are gift days working? Are people distancing in line? How much protective gear do the employees handing out the gifts wear? Do you still have to hand your card to the employee or has the casino installed equipment so you can swipe your card yourself?

What would you say to someone who is contemplating a trip to Las Vegas?

I noticed that Cinemark has opened more theaters. What's the movie-going experience like now? Are groups maintaining distancing in the theater? Are people leaving their masks off even after they've finished their popcorn and Coke ICEE? Do you agree that Cinemark should figure out some way to prove you've purchased the annual refillable cup and tub without having to bring them to the theater and then having to carry them around empty because the concession stand gives you new single-use containers?

And does anyone else think that the SpaceX spacesuits look like the Halloween costume you got from Woolworth's when you were in the fourth grade?

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots