Thursday, June 4, 2020 | 9 a.m.
To Jake McKenna, Las Vegas is a special place. It’s where he met his fiancé at a work conference last year, and it’s a city he likes to visit whenever he can.
After being closed for months because of the coronavirus crisis, Las Vegas casinos are starting to reopen today with certain restrictions in place.
McKenna is among those taking advantage of attractive deals aimed at bringing tourists back.
“We saw articles and Instagram ads and Twitter ads about Vegas opening June 4 and to get in now while the getting is good,” said McKenna, who lives in Pennsylvania. “We were like, shoot, let’s get in and get the best deal we can and, oh my gosh, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deal like what we got.”
Including resort fees, McKenna and his fiancé spent about $800 for a seven-day stay at the MGM Grand in late July, he said. Combine that with relatively cheap airfare out of Pittsburgh, and it was a package too good to pass up, he said.
As Las Vegas opens from its two-plus-month slumber — Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus — casinos have been rolling out specials to lure visitors back.
From player rewards perks to discounted room rates, the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus has made Las Vegas, at least for now, a value proposition.
Along with self-parking fees being waived at MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment properties opening Thursday on the Strip, some casinos are looking at waiving resort fees.
The Sahara is waiving resort fees — normally about $40 — for June. At the South Point, the nightly resort fee has been reduced to $14 as part of a promotion that runs through August.
At the Flamingo — one of three Caesars resorts reopening Thursday — resort fees remain, but a room for two adults with a king-sized bed can be had for $50 or less (not including the resort fee) this month.
Golden Entertainment, which owns the Strat and a number of other properties, is offering rooms up to 45% off, a company spokeswoman said.
Caesars had originally planned to open Caesars Palace and the Flamingo on Thursday, but executives said customer demand prompted them to open Harrah’s, too. The company operates nine resorts on the Strip.
The Plaza in downtown Las Vegas is offering a number of bingo specials, CEO Jonathan Jossel said.
“We have some other really aggressive ideas to drive tourism here, too,” Jossel said. “We’re going to take a few days and weeks to gauge customer reaction before we get into more aggressive promotions.”
Roy Kendal, who visits Las Vegas several times a year, said he’s ready to come back.
Kendal, who lives in a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, said he has a vacation booked this month at the California in downtown Las Vegas.
“I’ve had tier credits added to my Boyd Gaming account multiple times recently,” Kendal said. “For my room rate, that’s lowered the price from $38 to $34 per night. I think that’s just the beginning of it. I think if I check in a week or two, I might have a couple of nights comped. It’s going to likely depend on how busy it is.”
Many casinos are sweetening player rewards offers to attract people.
At Binion’s and the Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas, rewards club members have the chance to earn up to $400 in free slot play each month through August.
Downtown casino owner Derek Stevens recently gave away 2,000 free one-way flights to Las Vegas.
Stevens, who owns The D and Golden Gate in downtown Las Vegas, said the promotion was something to help kick-start tourism.
Anothy Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor newsletter, called it the “King Kong of all promotions.”
“We’re seeing the casinos starting to unleash some things. Some of our newsletter members are finding additional points being put into their club accounts,” Curtis said.
“A lot of things are starting kind of subtly, but I think we’re going to see the flood gates open once the casinos get up and running and moving, perhaps later this month and into July,” he said.
Las Vegas casinos have a history of offering deals to tempt people back during tough economic times, Curtis said.
“Every time Las Vegas goes into a lull or meets adversity, they always go back to what they’ve hung their hat on for years, which is that this is a value vacation,” he said.
Robert Lang, a professor of urban affairs at UNLV and the executive director of Brookings Mountain West, said discounts and dropped fees could become the norm, at least for a while.
“I think the casinos will test demand and will charge fees if they see occupancy figures rise,” Lang said. “That goes for everything from parking to resort fees.”
McKenna said he knows Las Vegas will look different for now, with casino employees wearing masks and occupancy limits imposed by state regulators because of the virus.
“We know it will be very different than what we’re used to,” McKenna said. “In a way, we’re interested to go see what that looks like. We also want to support a city that we’re very fond of because we know that so many depend on those tourism dollars.”