Gambling shuts down in Nevada under governor’s virus order

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Casinos throughout Nevada were closed Wednesday, along with other nonessential businesses, following an unprecedented order from Gov. Steve Sisolak. He urged residents to stay home to help curtail the spread of the new coronavirus.

On the Las Vegas Strip, vehicle traffic was busy as usual despite gambling having halted at midnight, but pedestrians were scarce. Large orange barricades were placed in front of driveways to the Wynn and Encore casinos, while gates blocked walkways and entrances to a nearby shopping mall had been chained and padlocked. Across the street, a chain-link fence had been placed in front of the Circus Circus resort.

Sisolak ordered a monthlong freeze on gambling by Wednesday, shutting down not only the the well-known casinos of Las Vegas and Reno but all gambling machines, like slot machines found in grocery stores and convenience stores.

The broad directive also included the monthlong closure of non-essential businesses like bars, movie theaters and gyms at noon Wednesday. Restaurants must shutter their dining rooms and only offer takeout or delivery.

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During a news conference Tuesday night, Sisolak listed some of the business he wanted closed within less than a day and which ones he’d like to stay open. But he did not release a comprehensive list. It wasn’t immediately clear if the state’s legal marijuana dispensaries were considered non-essential and were being directed to close.

The closures are part of federal guidance recommending social distancing. President Donald Trump has urged Americans to follow sweeping guidelines for the next few weeks, including for older residents to stay home and for all people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 as well as restaurants and bars.

Nevada has reported more than 50 cases of the virus, including one death. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

In addition to casinos, Sisolak said salons, gyms, nightclubs, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters and malls were among the businesses that should close.

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“If your business brings groups of people together, it should not be open,” Sisolak said.

He said essential businesses that should remain open include pharmacies, banks, gas stations, hardware stores and grocery stores. Essential services like police, fire, transit and health care should remain open, along with businesses that provide services like food and shelter to the needy.

Inside a liquor and wine store in the suburb of Henderson Wednesday morning, two long lines of customers waiting to check out snaked to the back of the store. A few shoppers were wearing masks as they waited, and a store worker greeting customers said the shop would not be closing.

Dorothy Lee and her husband came by to make their monthly stock-up, loading several boxes of bottles into their car.

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“I think people are just panicking,” Lee said. “It’s not like the stores aren’t getting supplies in every day.”

Patricia Beck, who was loading several cases of beer into the trunk of her car, said she lost her job Wednesday night as a manager at a casino because of the governor’s closure order, and now doesn’t have her insurance or vacation pay and is unsure if and when she’ll get her job back.

Beck said she disagrees with Sisolak’s order forcing people to do something, saying “he’s basically seizing private property and shutting it down.”

“I know why he did it. I get it,” Beck said. “But they don’t understand the impact of a four-hour notice that your life’s over.”

She said that even though the liquor store wouldn’t be closing under Sisolak’s order, it still caused people to crowd in and stock up.

“Nobody wants to take the chance that tomorrow he’s going to change his mind and within an hour shut down the things that we like again,” she said.

Officials at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas said in a tweet that it will remain open.


Sonner reported from Reno. Associated Press photographer John Locher in Las Vegas contributed to this report.