Cortez Masto, Lee top prior first-quarter fundraising tallies as congressional campaigns eye 2022 midterms

Congressional representatives across the state reported race-leading fundraising hauls this week, positioning each with an early money advantage more than a year in advance of next summer’s primary elections. 

Leading all fundraising was Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, (D-NV), who reported more than $2.3 million in fundraising ahead of what is expected to be a competitive re-election bid. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who is not up for reelection until 2024, reported $341,794.

In the House, District 3 Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) led the state’s delegation with $607,407 raised through the first quarter; District 4’s Steven Horsford (D-NV) followed with $363,210; District 2’s Mark Amodei (R-NV) reported $77,749; and District 1’s Dina Titus (D-NV) reported $48,080.

With so much time left before the formal filing deadline for congressional elections next spring, the field of challengers in each district remains relatively small. Even so, two Republican challengers in the state’s two swing districts reported six-figure fundraising hauls, including Sam Peters in District 4 ($135,000) and April Becker in District 3 ($143,000).

Below are some additional campaign finance numbers for each candidate, broken down by district from greatest cumulative fundraising to least. 

Catherine Cortez Masto (D) — incumbent

Ahead of her first-ever bid for re-election as a U.S. senator and as Democrats prepare to defend their razor-thin margin in the Senate, Cortez Masto reported $2.3 million in fundraising, boosting her cash on hand by roughly 55 percent to nearly $4.7 million. 

A vast majority of that money, about $1.8 million, came from individual donors, including roughly $1.35 million in itemized contributions and $460,000 in small-dollar unitemized donations. Cortez Masto also raised an even $349,000 from PACs, more than $51,000 from political party committees and nearly $86,500 from other fundraising committee transfers.  

With a fundraising total orders of magnitude larger than any other candidate in Nevada through the first quarter, Cortez Masto also has by far the most individual donors of the entire field with thousands of itemized contributions reported, including several dozen contributions of the legal maximum. 

By law, individuals can contribute up to $2,900 per candidate per election (i.e. for the primary and for the general) in federal elections, while PACs and other committees can contribute up to $5,000 per election. Major donors will often contribute that maximum twice, once for the primary and again for the general, up front, giving candidates between $5,800 and $10,000.

Among the many donors who maxed out their contribution to Cortez Masto were a handful of Nevada regulars, including businessman and major Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck ($2,900 in the first quarter, $5,800 overall) and MGM Resorts International ($5,000).

With nearly $663,000 spent this quarter, no Nevada politician came close to Cortez Masto in outlays. Most of that money, $382,206, went to nine firms involved in fundraising operations, including mailers ($213,406) and online ($168,800). 

Jacky Rosen (D) — incumbent

With more than three years before she’ll face voters again, Rosen reported a comparatively modest $341,794 in contributions last quarter, but her campaign has more than $1.85 million in cash on hand. 

Of that money, most ($226,165) came from individual contributions, with the rest flowing largely from PACs ($14,000) and authorized committee transfers ($97,600).

Among the several dozen donors giving Rosen the legal maximum were Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun ($5,800) and his wife, Myra Greenspun ($5,800); Niraj Shah, CEO of the furniture retailer Wayfair ($2,900); and a leadership PAC linked to former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the Seeking Justice PAC ($5,000).  

Most of the $137,000 spent by Rosen was for regular operating expenditures, though her campaign twice spent $5,000 for online advertising from New York-based firm Assemble the Agency. 

A district that covers much of the southern half of Clark County, including some of the Las Vegas metro’s wealthiest suburbs, District 3 has switched hands between the two major parties three times since its creation in 2002. 

For three cycles, that control has been maintained by Democrats, following a narrow win by Rosen in 2016, and subsequent victories by Lee in 2018 and 2020. Still, a narrow victory in the district by Donald Trump in 2016 and small voter registration gaps have marked District 3 as one of a few-dozen nationwide that may become key to deciding which party controls the House after the 2022 midterms.

Susie Lee (D) — incumbent

Frequently the top-fundraiser among Nevada’s House delegation, Susie Lee continued her streak last quarter with $607,407 in contributions. After Lee largely depleted her campaign reserves in a pricey bid to keep her seat last year, that first-quarter fundraising has left her campaign with just over $484,000 in cash on hand. 

Nearly all of that money — $493,070 — came from individual contributions, with the remaining $114,000 coming from big-money PAC contributions. 

Among those individual donors were several dozen contributing the $2,900 maximum. Those big money donors were largely local business leaders — including Cashman Equipment CEO MaryKaye Cashman, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle and former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren — though the group also included television showrunner and producer Shonda Rhimes.

Among PACs that contributed the $5,000 maximum were a mix of business interests (including PACs related to Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International), and unions (including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and SMART, the sheet metal and transportation workers union, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.) 

Lee reported spending nearly $146,000 last quarter, an amount second only to Cortez Masto among the delegation members. Most of that money went to campaign consulting and staffing costs, with the single largest chunk — $32,000 spread over five payments — going to Washington, D.C.-based digital consulting firm Break Something. 

April Becker (R)

After her unsuccessful run for the Legislature in 2020, attorney April Becker is challenging Susie Lee (D) for her seat in Congress. In the first quarter of 2021, Becker raised $143,444 mostly from individual contributors. 

Becker received $2,000 from PACs, such as the Stronger Nevada PAC and (although not officially endorsed by) the campaigns for fellow Republican politicians, former Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei. 

Several of her big individual contributors included family members; donations from individuals with the last name Becker totaled $29,500, nearly a fifth of the total contributions. Local business owners also contributed to Becker, including some car dealership owners: $5,000 from Gary Ackerman of Gaudin Motor Company; Cliff Findlay and Donna Findlay of Findlay Automotive each donated the maximum of $2,900, totaling $5,800; and Donald Forman of United Nissan Vegas gave $5,800.  

Co-owners of the Innovative Pain Care Center, Melissa and Daniel Burkhead, each gave $5,800 totaling $11,600. Other contributors included several medical professionals, real estate investors and attorneys.

In the first quarter, Becker kept most of the money collected, $131,460, reporting spending only $11,983 on more fundraising efforts. 

Mark Robertson (R)

Also hoping to challenge Susie Lee, Army veteran Mark Robertson raised $61,631 in his first time running for a political seat. The sum includes $7,451 he loaned his campaign.  

Although he collected less than half than Becker in the first quarter, retirees were large contributors to his campaign, some nearly reaching the $5,800 maximum for both the primary and general elections. 

Several local architects, engineers and construction contractors were also among the contributors, including $5,000 combined from Kenneth and Michelle Alber of Penta Building Group, $3,000 from Brock Krahenbuhl, a contractor for GTI Landscape and $3,000 from Wayne Horlacher of Horrock Engineers. 

Robertson reported spending $25,148, including $5,250 on campaign consulting, $3,138 on office supplies and $3,270 on video and print advertising production services. After the expenditures, Robertson is left with $44,034 cash on hand. 

A geographically massive district — larger than some states — that encompasses parts of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and much of the state’s central rural counties, District 4 has been held by Democrats for all but one cycle since its creation in 2011. That exception came in 2014, when Republican Cresent Hardy unseated then-freshman Democrat Steven Horsford in an upset. 

Horsford retook the seat in 2018, defeating Hardy in an open race after incumbent Democrat Ruben Kihuen declined to mount his own re-election bid amid a sexual harassment investigation. Horsford later won re-election in 2020, beating Republican Jim Marchant by 5 percentage points. 

Steven Horsford (D) — incumbent

With $363,209 in reported fundraising, Horsford boosted his campaign war chest by more than 50 percent last quarter, lifting his cash on hand to $757,142. 

That fundraising was driven mostly by $205,883 in individual contributions, though Horsford also brought in a much larger share of PAC contributions ($157,251) than his delegation counterparts.

Among Horsford’s single-largest contributors was Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun and his wife, Myra, who both contributed the $2,900 maximum for the primary and general elections, or $11,600 combined. 

Horsford’s biggest PAC contributions came from a mix of political committees linked to the Democratic Party, unions and corporations. That includes $10,000 from the Congressional Black Caucus PAC (of which Horsford is a member), $5,000 from the public employees union AFSCME and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.   

A vast majority of the $102,000 spent by Horsford’s campaign last quarter went to operating costs, salaries and consultants, though — like his fellow incumbents — a sizable portion ($21,000) still flowed to a pair of fundraising and finance compliance consultants. 

Sam Peters (R)

After finishing second in last year’s Republican primary for District 4, veteran and local business owner Sam Peters led Republican fundraising efforts in the district this quarter. Peters’ campaign raised more than $135,000, which came entirely from individual contributions.

Those contributions were driven largely by retirees, as two-thirds of the 100 big-money contributions over $200 came from donors listing themselves as retired. Peters’ campaign was also boosted by a few maximum or near-maximum donations, including $5,800 from Frank Suryan Jr., CEO of Lyon Living, a residential development company based in Newport Beach, California, and $5,800 from Suryan’s spouse.

After spending a little more than $24,000, mostly on campaign consulting and fundraising services, Peters ended the quarter with nearly $115,000 in cash on hand, nearly double the amount he had at the end of the first quarter of 2021.

A district that includes Reno and much of rural Northern Nevada, District 2 has for two cycles been the only federal seat in Nevada still held by a Republican. The one-time seat of former Sen. Dean Heller and former Gov. Jim Gibbons, both Republicans, the seat has been held by incumbent Republican Mark Amodei since 2011, when he defeated Democrat Kate Marshall in a special election to replace the outgoing Heller. 

Mark Amodei (R) — incumbent

After Amodei spent close to a thousand dollars more than he raised through the first three months of 2021, his campaign war chest sits at $323,347 entering the second quarter.

His fundraising of nearly $78,000 came largely from big-money contributions totaling more than $50,000, including roughly 30 donations between $1,000 and $2,000. But Amodei was also boosted by several maximum or near-maximum donations from Margaret Cavin, owner of plumbing company J&J Mechanical in Reno ($5,600), and Uwe Rockenfeller, president of Boulder City-based engineering firm Rocky Research ($5,800).

Amodei’s fundraising was also boosted by a few large contributions from political committees, including $5,000 donations from PACs affiliated with MGM Resorts International and New York Life Insurance, $3,500 from a PAC affiliated with the aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation and $2,500 from Barrick Gold, a mining company.

Amodei’s spending was distributed across a wide range of categories, as he spent $7,625 on radio advertising, $4,000 on campaign consulting, nearly $20,000 on fundraising consulting, $12,750 on accounting services and more than $7,500 on meals and entertainment for contributor relations — including nearly $700 paid to cigar companies and more than $2,000 spent at Trattoria Alberto, an Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Located in the urban center of Las Vegas, the deep blue District 1 has been held by incumbent Democratic Rep. Dina Titus since 2012. Titus won the seat after losing a previous re-election bid in nearby District 3 in 2010, which she had held for one term after a win over Republican Rep. Joe Heck in 2008.

Dina Titus (D) — incumbent

With no clear challengers in the district, Titus finished the first quarter with the least money raised of any Nevada incumbent — she received $48,080, which was $1.85 less than she raised through the same period last year.

More than half of those funds were given by four PACs that contributed a combined $25,000. The American Institute of Architects’ PAC, a PAC associated with the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers PAC gave $5,000 each, a pro-Israel PAC called Desert Caucus donated $10,000.

Titus also received $14,280 from individuals, including a $1,000 contribution from former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin and a maximum contribution of $5,800 from Uwe Rockenfeller, president of Boulder City-based engineering firm Rocky Research.

After spending $37,000 in the quarter, Titus brought her cash on hand total to almost $340,000.

Follow the Money: Breaking down the biggest legislative campaign contributions from the 2020 cycle

Nevada Legislature building

Even amid a crushing global pandemic and the worst economic crisis to hit the state since the Great Recession, more than $10.6 million in big-money campaign contributions flowed to 61 Nevada lawmakers through the two-year 2020 campaign cycle. 

Of that money, nearly half — roughly $5.1 million — came from just five industries: real estate and development, unions and labor groups, health care groups, other candidates or politicians and business interests. 

Even in Nevada, which boasts a non-professionalized citizen Legislature, legislative candidates routinely raise tens-of-thousands of dollars per cycle, and those in the swingiest districts often raise six-figures or more. 

And though candidates tout the many small-dollar gifts to their campaigns, the vast majority of any warchest is filled almost entirely by big-money spending on the part of political action committees, corporations, wealthy individuals and political groups. 

To break it all down, The Nevada Independent categorized more than 7,700 individual contributions greater than $200 — a cutoff that excludes most small-dollar individual contributions, but still captures nearly all money raised by Nevada legislators. 

This data set does not capture every contour of the state’s campaign finance landscape. Of note, it excludes contributions to losing candidates, as well as those contributions under the $200 threshold. 

The data also excludes two lawmakers who were elected in 2020, but resigned before the legislative session began: Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas), who left to take a post in the Biden Administration's Department of Health and Human Services, and Asm. Alexander Assefa (D-Las Vegas), who resigned amid a criminal probe into alleged campaign funds misuse and a residency issue. 

Still, taken as a whole, the data provides a collective picture of how Nevada's biggest industries fund campaigns for state office. 

Over the coming weeks, The Nevada Independent will dive deep into the specific spending of each industry — including how that money was spent and on whom. 

Below are highlights of the data reflecting contributions and who made them. For toplines on which lawmakers received the most money, you can read the first installment of our Follow the Money series here

Spending by the biggest industries

Of more than 30 industries, real estate and development companies led by far with a combined $1,346,644 contributed to nearly every lawmaker elected last year. That money was distributed by more than 240 companies, PACs and individuals, who collectively gave 965 contributions to 60 different legislators. 

Labor unions and the health care industry were the only other categories to crack the million-dollar threshold. 

In total, 63 individual unions, labor groups or related individuals gave 52 lawmakers $1,028,892 — nearly 10 percent of all money contributed through 2020. More than 150 health care companies, PACs and individuals likewise contributed $1,002,401 in total. 

Other major industries or donor groups include other candidates or politicians ($931,700), business interests ($841,300), the gaming industry ($769,100) and law firms, lawyers and other legal groups ($607,330).

Among the industries or groups tracked in The Indy’s analysis, just four gave less than $100,000: Education groups ($98,271), marijuana companies ($86,500), tribal groups ($30,500) and agricultural companies ($10,950). 

The biggest single donors

Of the more than $10.6 million donated to Nevada lawmakers through last year, nearly a fifth — about 19 percent — came from the 13 single contributors who gave more than $100,000. 

Much like national campaign finance laws, Nevada laws do not limit the amount of money that can be contributed directly to PACs, rather than candidates. As a result, by far the biggest spenders of any given cycle, 2020 included, are industry PACs, themselves funded by dozens of individuals and corporations, both small and large.

The biggest single spender among that group was the Nevada Realtors PAC, which spent $397,000 across 155 contributions to 57 legislators. That sum nearly doubles the next closest single-contributor, the trial lawyer PAC Citizens for Justice Trust, which gave $203,500 to 36 legislators. 

The remaining list of big-spenders also includes some of the largest companies in Nevada and a handful of the most powerful nationwide industry groups and unions. Statewide utility NV Energy gave lawmakers $167,500; a PAC associated with health care company HCA gave $142,500; the pharmaceutical industry group PhRMA likewise gave $140,500, while Zuffa — parent company to the Ultimate Fighting Championship — gave $128,000. 

Who gave the max

In Nevada, single-donor contributions are limited to a maximum of $10,000 per election cycle per candidate, with a further limit of $5,000 per election (i.e. $5,000 each for the primary and the general). 

And though these maximum contributions make up just a fraction of the total number of individual donations made — just 529 out of more than 7,700 — they also often make up a sizable portion of any given candidate’s fundraising, especially considering the median legislative fundraising haul of about $117,800 through the 2020 cycle. 

Including contributions of both $5,000 and $10,000 lump sums, the Nevada Realtors led the way once more with $5,000 gifts for 12 legislators and $10,000 each for Republican Assembly members Andy Matthews and Heidi Kasama and Sen. Carrie Buck. 

Citizens for Justice Trust came next, contributing $5,000 to seven lawmakers, and $10,000 to five, all Democrats: Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, Asm. Steve Yeager, Asm. Edgar Flores, Asm. Elaine Marzola and Asm. Howard Watts. 

Other major maximum-donors likewise include a number of the biggest overall spenders: Nevada Gold Mines, the Home Building Industry PAC, the Nevada Health Care Association PAC, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, health care corporation HCA and the public employee’s union, AFSCME, all gave at least 10 contributions of $5,000, and all gave at least one $10,000 contribution. 

Contributions by party

Though most industries give freely to members from both parties, those contributions are frequently — and predictably — distributed unevenly. 

For instance, 25 legislative Republicans received far more money from real estate groups ($810,194 in total) compared to 35 Democrats ($536,450). Likewise, union and labor contributions went almost entirely to Democrats, who received 94 percent of all union contributions.  

Other major splits also appeared in health care contributions ($600,601 to Democrats, $401,800 to Republicans); business contributions ($519,350 to Republicans, $321,950 to Democrats); gaming contributions ($426,300 to Republicans, $342,800 to Democrats) and legal industry contributions ($470,450 to Democrats, $136,879 to Republicans). 

Tim Lenard, Riley Snyder and Sean Golonka contributed to this report. 

Clark County Commissioners approve renaming McCarran airport after Sen. Harry Reid, federal approval needed next

The Clark County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a name change from McCarran International Airport to Harry Reid International Airport. 

“I will be proud to cast my vote today to support the airport being renamed as a tribute to the work [Sen. Harry Reid] has done for Nevada, regardless of party, and a reminder that we must continue to fight the good fight for our community every day,” said Commissioner Justin Jones. 

Reid expressed gratitude following the unanimous vote.

"It is with humility that I express my appreciation for the recognition today," said the former senator. "I would like to express my deep gratitude to Commissioner Segerblom, the entire Clark County Commission, and the many others who have played a part in this renaming."

During the meeting, public comments were filled with support and opposition for the name change. While many favored renaming the property after Reid, noting his accomplishments and ties to Nevada, some outright rejected a change, and some proposed different name possibilities, including Las Vegas International Airport.

One person in opposition made the argument that changing the airport’s name to a powerful Democrat leader would further fuel the partisan divide present across the U.S., which he said carries economic implications.

“I'm not here to express an opinion on what's right,” said Edward Facey during the public comment period. “Rather, I want to reinforce the point that involving brands with politically polarized political issues and personalities has economic impact. And most of those impacts are negative.” 

But for others, the name change is a statement in support of Nevada’s diversity. 

“In Las Vegas, we often tear down our history,” said Astrid Silva, Dream Big Nevada executive director and immigrant’s rights advocate. “Let’s build it up, build up people like me, who didn’t know that they mattered. Naming Harry Reid International Airport would show all our young Nevadans that no matter if you come from the desert, you can soar.” 

The board will submit a request to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval of the name change, although the LAS letter code used by the administration to identify the property would remain the same. 

If approved, rebranding the airport would cost an estimated $2 million. However, Commissioner Tick Segerblom explained that funds will be raised privately to cover those costs. 

“I do think that no one should have to suffer from this economically,” Segerblom said. “We do have contributions lined up, and we will figure out a way to to collect those and then make sure it’s covered.” 

Along with the support from the all-Democrat commission, the decision to change the namesake of the airport, from the controversial and influential Sen. Pat McCarran to former Senate Majority Leader Reid, has been supported by other prominent Democrats throughout the state, including Gov. Steve Sisolak, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Attorney General Aaron Ford.

“Senator Harry Reid has never forgotten who he is or where he came from,” Sisolak said in a statement. “He has spent his life and his career lifting up Nevada to what it has become today. He has helped to shape Las Vegas into a world-class tourism destination in a state that celebrates its diversity.”

The name change also received support from prominent Republicans, including Miriam Adelson and Sands Chairman and CEO Robert Goldstein, as well as from university presidents, including UNR President and former Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“Among his list of exceptional accomplishments, Senator Reid’s work on behalf of the airport has helped Nevada become a great global destination,” Sandoval and UNLV President Keith Whitfield wrote in a letter. “We support honoring Senator Reid’s decades of service for the great State of Nevada by renaming the airport in the community and state that he has helped build and prosper.”

The push to remove McCarran as the namesake of the airport has been around for several years. In 2017, Segerblom’s effort to strip McCarran’s name from the airport through legislation died in committee.

The airport’s original namesake, McCarran, who served in the U.S. senate from 1933 until his death in 1954, has been defended by some as a champion of labor rights. However, his critics have scrutinized him for having a documented legacy of racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia that included restrictive immigration policies that limited immigration for Jewish refugees after the holocaust.

“Senator Patrick McCarran’s history of supporting racist and anti-Semitic policies does not align with what Las Vegas represents,” Jason Gray, an MGM Resorts representative, said. “And frankly his name should not be the first one that visitors to our region see.  Las Vegas’ main airport should be named after a champion of values important to Nevada – a champion of Nevada – Senator Harry Reid.”

This story was updated on 2/16/2021 at 3:07 p.m. to include a statement from Sen. Harry Reid.

Gov. Steve Sisolak reports more than $2.4 million in 2020 fundraising ahead of looming re-election bid

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has reported raising upwards of $2.4 million for his re-election bid next year, an amount that roughly doubled the size of his campaign war chest to more than $4.53 million.

Sisolak’s 2020 haul, reported to the secretary of state Wednesday, is roughly 50 percent more than the $1.6 million he raised through 2019, though it remains a far cry from the more-than $11.3 million he raised during his contentious bid to win the seat in 2018. 

Sisolak’s fundraising report comes amid national unrest related to the 2020 election and follows several failed recall efforts attempting to oust the governor that came after a number of restrictions were put in place in the earliest days of the pandemic. The report also arrives as the 2021 legislative session approaches and with it, a budget crisis stemming from economic damage caused by coronavirus shutdowns

Though many of the individual contributions made to the governor’s campaign came in small dollar amounts, the vast majority of Sisolak’s 2020 fundraising — $2,356,277 — came in the form of contributions greater than $100, with 124 contributors giving the governor the $10,000 maximum donation. Taken together, those largest contributions total more than half of all the money Sisolak raised last year at more than $1.2 million. 

When accounting for other donations, including those totaling $5,000 (143 total), and $2,500 (52 total), the amount raised through top-dollar contributions alone increases to roughly $2.05 million. 

Of the largest contributions of $10,000, nearly a quarter-million came solely from gaming companies, manufacturers or trade groups, including: 

  • $70,000 from companies or properties owned or operated by Station Casinos
  • $50,000 from MGM Resorts International properties
  • $50,000 from Marnell Gaming companies, properties or individuals (owner of the Nugget in Sparks)
  • $30,000 from Las Vegas Sands properties or companies 
  • $20,000 from Meruelo Group companies or properties (owner of the Sahara in Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort in Reno)
  • $20,000 from companies linked to sportsbook William Hill
  • $10,000 from Golden Entertainment (owner of the Strat in Las Vegas)
  • $10,000 from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers

Together, the gaming industry formed the single largest industry bloc of the governor’s donors. However, these totals likely only represent part of the overall contributions made by gaming companies or individuals related to the industry, as it does not include contributions made by industry executives or related LLCs. That includes a number of esoterically named holding companies or development companies, which often contribute in smaller amounts.  

Business-related donors otherwise formed the second largest share of Sisolak’s biggest contributors, contributing at least 26 maximum donations for a total of $260,000, while real estate and development related donors formed the third-largest bloc with 18 contributions totaling $180,000. 

Notably absent from Sisolak’s 2020 filing are the state’s largest mining companies, which will likely find themselves at the center of a legislative fight to raise the state’s tax revenue in 2021 — a fight that comes after mining taxes first came back to the fore during a special legislative session last summer. 

Their absence, however, is likely little more than a coincidence of campaign contribution timing. State law limits maximum contributions by campaign cycle, not by year, and several major mining companies — including Newmont and Barrick Gold — maxed out their contributions to Sisolak in 2019

Other notable names for those who contributed the maximum of $10,000 include Marc Badain, chairman of the Raiders; Key and Rory Reid, sons of former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid; Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, whom Sisolak appointed; and an LLC tied to Elaine Wynn, a businesswoman and philanthropist.

Sisolak also saw major contributions from seven companies linked to Las Vegas Golden Knights owner and Fidelity chairman Bill Foley, as well as a maximum contribution from Foley himself, for a total of $80,000. 

With no campaign to mount through the 2020 cycle, Sisolak reported comparatively little in campaign spending, about $229,900.  

Nevada Independent intern Sean Golonka contributed to this report.

Update, 1/13/21 at 5:35 p.m. - This story was updated to include more details about contributions made to Gov. Sisolak in his 2020 annual filing.

Adelson, gaming and political force, dies at 87

Sheldon Adelson, the son of a Boston cabbie who became a billionaire and left an indelible mark on the worlds of gaming and politics, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 87.

Adelson’s influence extended from Las Vegas, where he parlayed a purchase of the iconic Sands into two dazzling Strip properties, to Washington, D.C., where he had the ear of presidents, to overseas, where he put Macau on the map as a casino mecca and became a force in Israeli politics.

Adelson also is the main reason the Las Vegas Raiders exist, having pushed for the move from Oakland and shepherding a special financing deal through the Legislature. Five years ago, he extended his local and state influence by purchasing the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada.

Adelson, worth more than $30 billion when he died, became one of the richest men in the world through the company he built, Las Vegas Sands, and used some of that wealth for charity and politics, becoming the largest donor to President Trump, whom he influenced to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

"Sheldon lived the true American dream," Trump said in a statement issued by The White House. "His ingenuity, genius, and creativity earned him immense wealth, but his character and philanthropic generosity his great name. Sheldon was also a staunch supporter of our great ally the State of Israel. He tirelessly advocated for the relocation of the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and its neighbors."

Adelson's wife, Miriam, also put out a statement about her late husband.

“Much has been written and said about how Sheldon, the son of poor immigrants, rose to the pinnacle of business success on the strength of grit and genius, inspiration and integrity,” Miriam Adelson said in a statement. “He was an all-American story of entrepreneurship. When Sheldon launched a new venture, the world looked on in anticipation.”

"Laura and I mourn the passing of a friend," former President George W. Bush said in a statement. "He was an American patriot and a strong supporter of Israel. Sheldon was a generous benefactor of charitable causes, especially medical research and Jewish heritage education. He will be missed by many - none more than his beloved family."

Even Democrats who saw Adelson fund their opponents and whose politics were antithetical to theirs, including the Democrats in Nevada's congressional delegation, sent encomia upon learning of his passing.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who developed a relationship with Adelson as a Clark County commissioner, praised his entrepreneurship and pointed to his treatment of employees during the pandemic.

"For me, in these difficult times, one act stands above all," Sisolak said. "Despite suffering significant economic losses due to the global pandemic, the shutdowns and limited business, due to mitigation protocols, Sheldon made a commitment to keep all of his Las Vegas employees paid and insured. That commitment helped keep thousands of Nevadans afloat during the most difficult of months, and Sheldon’s commitment will never be forgotten."

Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who had a little-known, backchannel relationship with Adelson based on mutual respect, also chimed in.

“Few people have had such significant an impact on the hotel and gaming industry and on Nevada’s economy as Sheldon Adelson," said Reid. "He came to Las Vegas as a master of the convention business. Adelson became one of Nevada’s giants in gaming, conventions and hospitality. He was instrumental in transforming Las Vegas into the iconic destination it is today."

Matt Brooks, who heads the Republican Jewish Coalition and is close to the Adelson family, said, “It’s been the greatest honor of my life to have Sheldon Adelson as a mentor and friend. No man has had a larger impact in business, philanthropy, medical research and helping the Jewish community than Sheldon doing so the whole time while never losing site of his humble roots. He was the quintessential Horatio Alger.”

Adelson had his share of critics, from unions in Nevada he refused to let in the doors of the Venetian and Palazzo, to many who felt the sting of his occasionally litigious nature, including reporters such as The Nevada Independent’s John L. Smith.

He will be remembered in the state as one of the most influential visionaries ever to erect a casino-resort, a man whom Steve Wynn once came to for advice on the burgeoning Macau market. And he will forever be known as the man who, perhaps more than any other, helped Donald Trump become president, donating tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause.

Adelson first made his mark in Las Vegas when he oversaw the creation of COMDEX, a computer expo that was the genesis of his long-running feud with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority but also showed his genius for the convention business. The show’s success eventually allowed him to purchase The Sands, where the Rat Pack hung out.

Born in 1933 to a Jewish Lithuanian cab driver and the manager of a knitting store, Adelson began selling newspapers in New York at the age of 12 and running a vending-machine company at 16.

Adelson, who attended the City College of New York but dropped out before graduating, ran several other businesses and invested in real estate before coming to Las Vegas in 1979. That year, Adelson and his business partners organized COMDEX, or Computer Dealers Exhibition, a convention that would come to propel Adelson's career in the casino industry.

Adelson’s experience in the convention business helped move Las Vegas toward a town not only known for gambling but also for large trade shows and corporate events. When Adelson purchased the original Sands Hotel in the late 1980s, he built a convention center next door. 

COMDEX proved so successful that Adelson and his partners sold their stake in the convention for more than $800 million in 1995. In 1996, one year later, Adelson imploded the Sands to make way for The Venetian, pouring more than $1 billion into what would become an iconic hotel on the Strip.

Election Preview: Assembly Republicans fighting to get out of the ‘superminority’ as Democrats seek to protect seats in swingy districts

Democratic lawmakers have, for the last two years, enjoyed a supermajority in the Assembly.

Because they control two-thirds of the seats in the chamber, Democrats have had the ability to pass tax increases and override vetos from the governor — should the need arise — at their discretion. The only limit on Democrats’ legislative power has been in the Senate, where Democrats are one seat shy of a supermajority.

While Senate Democrats have been eyeing state Sen. Heidi Gansert’s Washoe County seat in their quest to secure a supermajority in that chamber, they have largely been playing defense on the Assembly side.

Only five of the 42 seats in the Assembly are truly competitive this year, including four districts where Democrats narrowly won elections in 2018 — Assembly Districts 4, 29, 31 and 37. The fifth, Assembly District 2, is a potentially swingy seat that has been held by a Republican for more than a decade.

Of the remaining 37 seats, 25 are guaranteed or likely to swing Democratic and 12 are guaranteed or likely to swing Republican. Five Democrats and seven Republicans are running unopposed in the general election, with the rest of the seats likely to swing either Democratic or Republican because of the overwhelming voter registration advantages in each district.

Democrats have a 29-13 supermajority in the Assembly — meaning that they can only afford to lose one seat if Assembly District 2 stays in Republican hands.

That’s why Republicans say they have ramped up an independent expenditure operation — that is, an outside campaign not run by the candidate themselves — this cycle focused on boosting their prospects of getting out of what is sometimes referred to as the “superminority.” Assemblyman Tom Roberts, who is helping to spearhead the effort, said that the independent expenditure campaign is the result of Republicans narrowing their focus after the last cycle.

“We knew that we needed to remain focused on the seats that were winnable,” Roberts said. “We were critiqued by some donors to that effect, and so we developed a plan that was fairly narrowly focused based on voter registration.”

Between Roberts’ Nevada Victory PAC and Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’ Lead Forward PAC, Republicans have raised $117,000 this year toward those competitive Assembly seats.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm on the Republican side,” Roberts said. “There wasn’t so much on the Democrat side, but I think they’re picking up steam so it’ll be interesting to see who can turn out the most and who can attract independents — and how the presidential race plays into down ticket races will be telling, too.”

But Megan Jones, a Democratic consultant who works on independent expenditures on the other side of the aisle, thinks Democrats’ chances of keeping their supermajority is strong. And, by comparison, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson’s Leadership in Nevada PAC, which has existed since 2015, has raised $240,000 this year.

“The way they've been running the campaigns has been smart. They've been well resourced,” Jones said. “So I'm hopeful there. I think we have a good shot at retaining a governing majority."

But there’s a possibility that there could be significant drop off down the ballot because of the prevalence of vote by mail this cycle, Jones said, noting that Democrats, particularly those in Nevada, tend to vote less straight ticket than Republicans do.

“If you're a Republican, you're usually a Republican all the way down the ballot,” Jones said.

Though former Vice President Joe Biden is leading in the polls in Nevada, Eric Roberts, executive director of the Assembly Republican Caucus, is hopeful that Republicans could still pick up some seats even if President Donald Trump narrowly loses the state.

“I don’t know how much a candidate can truly outperform the top of the ticket,” Roberts said. “I don’t know how much range there is to separate, but that’s where Republicans have to go to find that because Trump looks like he is performing about on voter registration or a little bit below it.”

Below, The Nevada Independent explores those five Assembly races this year. Click here to read more about the Senate races and check out our election page for more information overall.

Assembly District 2

Of the five competitive Assembly races this cycle, Assembly District 2 is the only Republican-controlled seat. It is currently represented by termed-out Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick, who has represented the Summerlin-area seat since 2008.

Republicans recruited Heidi Kasama — her first name is pronounced “hey-dee,” for the record — managing broker of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices-Nevada Properties, as Hambrick’s successor. She faces Democrat Radhika Kunnel, a graduate of UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and a former professor specializing in cancer biology, in the race. Garrett LeDuff, a nonpartisan, is also running for the seat.

Hambrick won his re-election bid in 2018 by 1,054 votes, or a 3.7 percentage-point margin. Republicans currently have a 969-person voter registration advantage in the district, or 2.2 percentage points. Republicans had an 1,829-person advantage in 2018, or 4.5 percentage points.

Kasama has raised $193,000 this year, including $104,000 over the last three months. However, more than half of that three-month total, $55,450, was self-funded. She also received a $10,000 donation from BORPAC (the Board of REALTORS PAC in Las Vegas) and $5,000 each from Assemblyman Tom Roberts and the Reno-Sparks Association of REALTORS.

Kunnel, by comparison, has raised about $59,000, with about $39,000 over the last three months, including $2,000 from Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, $1,000 from SEIU Local 1107 and $1,000 from EMILY’s List.

LeDuff has not raised any money this cycle.

Kasama has about $68,000 in the bank to finish out her campaign, while Kunnel has about $26,000.

Assembly District 4

Republicans are hoping to wrest control of this northwest Las Vegas Assembly seat from Democrats this year after losing it by only 120 votes two years ago. The race is a rematch between first term Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk and Republican Richard McArthur, who previously represented the district between 2008 and 2012 and 2016 to 2018. 

However, there is one significant difference this year: Munk and McArthur are the only two candidates in the race. Two years ago, an Independent American Party candidate also ran for the seat, securing 671 votes that might have otherwise gone to Munk or McArthur — and made the difference in the race. 

The Independent American Party is a far-right political party, though some people mistakenly register with the party thinking they have registered as an independent, when independents are called “nonpartisans” in Nevada. Still, Republicans speculate that McArthur would have won the lion’s share of those 671 votes, enough to have secured him a victory over Munk in 2018.

Voter registration numbers between Republicans and Democrats in the district continue to be extremely close. Democrats have an 11-voter registration advantage — 0.02 percentage points — over Republicans; two years ago, Republicans had a 33-voter advantage, or 0.07 percentage points.

Munk has, however, significantly outraised McArthur in her re-election bid. Her most recent campaign finance report shows that she has raised $137,000 over the course of the year — including $67,000 in the last three months — including several $5,000 donations from local groups including White Rabbit PAC (affiliated with the Laborers Union Local 169 in Reno), the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 525, SEIU Local 1107, the Committee to Elect Daniele Monroe-Moreno and Citizens for Justice Trust (a trial lawyers PAC) and, nationally, from EMILY’s List.

McArthur, who has raised $35,000 over the year, including $34,000 in the last three months, received one $6,000 donation from Assemblyman Al Kramer and three $5,000 donations, from the Barrick Gold Corporation, Assembly Republican Leader Robin Titus and Keystone Corporation. He also received one out-of-state donation, $2,500 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

As of Sept. 30, Munk had about $103,000 in the bank to finish out her campaign, compared to the $36,000 McArthur had on hand.

Assembly District 29

Democratic Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen is running for re-election in this Henderson Assembly district against Republican Steven DeLisle, a dentist anesthesiologist. Cohen first represented the seat between 2012 and 2014 and again since 2016.

Cohen won her 2018 re-election bid by 1,336 votes, or 5.1 percent, in a district where Democrats had a 1,550-person, or a 3.7 percentage point, voter registration advantage. Democrats now have a slightly narrower 4.9 percentage point, or 2,233 person, voter registration advantage in the district.

Cohen has raised $93,000 this year toward her re-election bid, including $53,000 over the last three months, while DeLisle has raised about $87,000, including $66,000 in the last three months. Some of Cohen’s top donors over the last few months include Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, who contributed $5,000; Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, who also contributed $5,000; and SEIU Local 1107, which contributed $4,000.

DeLisle’s notable contributors include the Keystone Corporation, which donated $5,000; the Vegas Chamber, which donated $2,500; and Las Vegas Sands, which also donated $2,500.

Cohen has about $107,000 in the bank, while DeLisle has about $70,000.

Assembly District 31

Democrat Skip Daly and Republican Jill Dickman are, for the fourth time in a row, going head to head in this Washoe County Assembly district. Daly has represented the district for eight of the last 10 years — from 2010 to 2014 and from 2016 until the present — with Dickman representing the district the other two years.

In 2014, Dickman defeated Daly by 1,890 votes, or 10.6 percentage points, during that year’s red wave. Daly defeated Dickman narrowly in 2016 by 38 votes, or 0.1 percentage point, before securing a wider margin of victory over her in 2018 — 1,105 votes, or 3.8 percentage points.

Daly, the business manager of Laborers Union Local 169, is known for relentlessly door knocking his way through the district, helping him secure recent victories in a district where there have consistently been more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans currently exceed Democrats in voter registration numbers by 1,966, or 4.3 percentage points; in 2018, Republicans had a 2,376 person advantage, or 5.8 percentage points.

Daly has raised a total of $67,000 this year toward his re-election bid, including $13,000 over the last three months. That sum includes a $5,000 donation from Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, $2,500 from the Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers and $2,000 from Southwest Gas.

Dickman, by contrast, has raised $59,000 this year, including $53,000 over the last three months. She’s received significant support from fellow Assembly Republicans — including $6,000 from Assemblyman Al Kramer, $5,000 from Assembly Republican Leader Robin Titus and $2,500 from Assemblyman Tom Roberts — but her biggest contribution in the last three months was a $10,000 check from Nevada Gold Mines, the joint mining venture between Barrick and Newmont.

Daly has about $53,000 left in the bank to spend toward his re-election campaign. Dickman has $56,000.

Assembly District 37

Democratic Assemblywoman Shea Backus is fighting to keep control of this Summerlin-area Assembly seat this year. She faces Republican Andy Matthews, who was formerly policy director for Adam Laxalt’s 2018 campaign for governor and president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

Backus, a lawyer by trade, defeated Republican Jim Marchant, then the incumbent, in 2018 by 135 votes, or 0.5 percentage points.

Democrats currently have an 845 person, or 1.9 percentage point, voter registration advantage in the district. In 2018, Democrats had a 245 person, or 0.6 percentage point, advantage.

Matthews has far outraised Backus individually, receiving $135,000 in contributions over the last three months compared to the $51,000 Backus received. Matthews has raised $210,000 over the course of the year, while Backus has raised $132,000. But Backus has slightly more money in the bank — $132,000 to Matthews’ $130,000.

Backus has received significant contributions from labor — including $5,000 from the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 525, $4,000 from SEIU Local 1107, $2,500 from IBEW Local 357, $2,000 from the Laborers Union Local 169 and $2,000 from the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council — and her fellow Assembly Democrats. She also received $5,000 from EMILY’s List and $1,000 from Republican consultant Pete Ernaut.

A significant share of Matthews’ contributions are from individuals, but his other top donors include Keystone Corporation, Hamilton Company, MM Development Company and Cortez Gold Mine, each of which donated $5,000.

Mass layoff data shows breadth, uncertainty of COVID-19 employment disruptions, from the Las Vegas Strip and beyond

In a typical March, about four million passengers might travel through McCarran International Airport, landing and taking off in balmy spring weather. They request skycaps to help with their bags. They purchase food in the terminals. They hail taxicabs. They rent sedans and SUVs.

Workers form the backbone of the bustling operation, serving on tarmac crews, preparing food and assisting passengers with everything from getting their rental cars to checking their bags. 

But as visitation at the airport decreased to less than half of what it was in March 2019, dozens of workers, from skycaps to cabin service cleaners, were laid off, according to letters sent to state and local officials under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988.

The federal law, known as the WARN Act, requires companies to give advance notice of mass layoffs, plant closures or a significant reduction in workforce. The Nevada Independent reviewed more than 100 letters filed as public records with state and local officials during the pandemic. 

The letters are posted on the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s website. 

The idea behind the WARN Act is that workers and policymakers would have at least 60 days of notice before a mass layoff. If companies do not provide that notice, they can be held liable for paying employee salaries and benefits for 60 calendar days. But during the pandemic, job losses have outpaced the mass layoff warnings across the country, as Bloomberg has reported.

Many companies have suggested WARN Act notifications might not be required if closures are related to the pandemic. They cite an exception in the law for “unforeseeable” circumstances.

Although the letters represent a fraction of total unemployment (they do not include gig workers, independent contractors or small business closures), they provide one view of the scope of the employment disruption caused by COVID-19 and the uncertainty around the recovery to come. 

Most of the reported mass layoffs and furloughs stem from hotel closures, from Lake Tahoe to the Las Vegas Strip. Still, the notifications also show how employees, less directly involved in the hospitality industry, have been affected by shutdowns aimed at curbing the pandemic.

A woman wears a protective mask at McCarran International Airport on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The hardest-hit sector

Flights are still going in and out of McCarran International Airport, but the volume has decreased so significantly that several companies operating in or around the airport have laid off workers.

Citing the coronavirus outbreak, the private jet company Gulfstream notified state officials earlier this month of plans to permanently close its facility at the airport, affecting 73 employees. Rental car companies Enterprise and Hertz also have reported layoffs to state officials, according to the notices. And on April 14, Hertz began a mass layoff of more than 180 employees at the airport.

“The COVID-19 public health crisis continues to have a profound and sustained adverse impact on the global economy in general and the rental car industry specifically,” the letter said. 

Days earlier, Prospect Airport Services had notified state officials of layoffs that were expected to affect 62 skycaps, 74 passenger service assistants, 12 baggage handlers, 16 cabin service cleaners, one unaccompanied minor assistant and one worker in an administrative support role. 

“It is the company’s hope that these layoffs will not affect all [airport] operations and will only be temporary in nature,” the notification said. “However, due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, the company cannot guarantee any timeline for recall, if employees will be recalled.”

Closures of businesses large and small, across the state and the nation, have led to historic levels of unemployment in Nevada. As of last Friday, the state reported receiving 440,761 initial claims for unemployment insurance, and 303,573 people have filed claims week after week. 

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 6.3 percent unemployment rate in March, when the claims are taken into account, the rate is 22 percent, the highest in state history. 

The WARN Act data represents only a fraction of those claims. The notification requirements, under the federal law, are required for plant closures and large-scale layoffs of more than 500 employees or a one-third reduction in the workforce that affects a minimum of 50 employees. 

Some WARN notifications go into detail about the terms of their layoffs. For instance, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Lake Tahoe, in its notice that it had laid off 360 employees and furloughed 13 others, outlined steps it took “to help mitigate the impact on our employees as best we could.”

It said it provided two weeks of pay following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order to shutdown by March 18, offered staff food from closed restaurants and tried to help employees buy health insurance.

But most of the notices are comparatively brief. 

Ruben Garcia, a UNLV law professor and co-director of the Workplace Law Program, said the notices disclose the aggregate effect of a closure or layoff, but leave most of the terms out.  

“They don’t tell the whole story about what the employees are actually getting,” Garcia said.

Since the business closures were announced, hospitality has been hit especially hard. Of the 341,661 initial unemployment claims between March 15 and April 18, nearly 40 percent came from the hospitality industry, according to UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

The WARN Act data echoes those findings, showing big disruptions in hospitality employment. 

The big casinos close

In many cases, the closure of a single Strip casino can lead to immense employment disruption. 

The closure of Caesar’s Palace led to furloughs in early April for 6,148 workers, according to its WARN Act filing. The Bellagio closure affected 6,821 employees and the closure of the MGM Grand affected 6,082 employees, their parent company, MGM Resorts International reported.

Caesars Entertainment announced on April 2nd that it was furloughing about 90 percent of its domestic employees across 13 states. The company, which also owns properties internationally, employs about 64,000 workers. It paid employees for the first two weeks of the furloughs and is paying employee health insurance premiums until June 30 or when employees return to work. 

MGM Resorts, which furloughed about 63,000 employees in the United States, announced a similar two-week pay policy and payments for health insurance premium through August. 

Other companies have continued paying their employees. Wynn Resorts has said it would pay its employees until May 31. Las Vegas Sands has stated that it plans to continue compensating workers until its “anticipated reopening in June.” 

But it’s unclear how long companies will be able to continue paying employees during the mandated casino closures, and afterwards. Station Casinos had committed to paying its employees, but on May 1 the company announced that layoffs were no longer avoidable. 

In a letter to employees, CEO Frank Fertitta III said the company had to make “meaningful staffing level reductions” as it planned to reopen several properties in phases and wait on opening four casinos to “assess how our business is performing in a post-COVID-19 world.” Fertitta said employees will still be paid until May 16.

According to the WARN Act notifications that Station Casinos filed with the state, the layoffs were expected to affect 6,434 of its 14,000 employees, and start going into effect on May 1.

The notifications reveal what was expected: Mass layoffs and furloughs across the Strip. 

On March 25, Treasure Island sent a WARN notice that the temporary closure of its property would affect 2,225 employees. Days later, the Trump International Hotel notified state officials that 552 employees would be put into temporary layoff status. On the same day, April 3, the Stratosphere notified state officials of “temporary or permanent layoffs” affecting 1,989 workers. 

“As you know, the COVID-19 virus recently reached pandemic proportions,” Golden Entertainment, which owns the Stratosphere, wrote in its letter. “The federal government and many states have declared a state of emergency and ordered the closure of non-essential businesses and issued travel restrictions. This emergency and these sudden and unexpected circumstances caused the facility closure and adversely affected our business operations.” 

The WARN filings suggest there are few firm answers about when — and even if — furloughed workers will return to work. Most companies that filed WARN Act notices, across industries, stated that the mass layoffs were temporary and not expected to last longer than six months. 

But they include language that suggest the furloughs could become permanent depending on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Will travel resume? And when will visitors return?

For instance, in a WARN Act notification for Caesars Palace dated April 22, Caesars reported that it intended “for the furloughs to be temporary; however, given the unknown certainty surrounding COVID-19, it is possible that the furloughs could become a permanent layoff.”

Since then, the company has released a reopening plan and said Caesars Palace would be among its first two Strip casinos to resume operations, according to CDC Gaming Reports.

MGM Resorts, which has also released a reopening plan, plans to initially restart operations at New York-New York and Bellagio. But workers still face uncertainty about when the furloughs will end. In early May, MGM Resorts said in WARN notices (it sent similar notices for each property) that layoffs remain temporary, but they could become permanent on August 31. 

“Our sincere hope continues to remain that this layoff is temporary, but in light of the continuing pandemic and our extended closure, we are unable to say that the layoff may not last more than six months for at least some portion of our employees,” the company wrote in its notifications.

South Lake Tahoe on Friday, May 8, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

A ripple far beyond the Strip

The layoffs and furloughs reported by the major casino operators only tell half the story. 

Restaurants and nightclubs that operate within Strip casinos have also filed WARN notifications that echo the uncertainty that major casino operators expressed in their filings. For instance, on April 13, Cafe Hollywood inside Planet Hollywood notified the state of 158 expected layoffs.

The Hakkasan Group, which operates several nightclubs along the Strip, notified the state on March 16 of hundreds of layoffs starting on March 13, as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns. 

“It is anticipated that this cessation of operations of the entire venue will be temporary; however, based on the fluid and rapidly evolving nature of this situation, we are unable to provide a specific date at which we will be able to recommence operations at this time,” the letters said.

Businesses that support the industry also had to lay off workers, according to the notifications. 

On March 23, Everi Payments and Everi Games, which provide financial services and games to casinos, notified state officials that they would have to temporarily furlough 305 employees in Nevada and 1,136 workers nationwide. Executives at the company took a 70 percent pay cut.

A week earlier, on March 16, Kre8 Media, an outdoor advertising company for clients across the Strip, notified state officials of temporary layoffs as customers terminated their contracts.

“Although we intend to resume normal operations as soon as it is prudent and practicable to do so, we do not know when that will occur,” the company wrote in its WARN Act notification.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) also filed a notification. 

On April 16, LVCVA provided notification that 350 employees would be affected by furloughs and permanent layoffs. As The Nevada Independent reported that week, the tourism agency expected to furlough 270 employees and lay off about 80 employees out of 455 full-time staff. 

But the closures of casinos were not confined to the Strip. Companies reported mass layoffs or furloughs at casinos across the state, including in Pahrump, Laughlin and in Lake Tahoe. 

Several casinos on the Nevada-side of Lake Tahoe — in Stateline and Crystal Bay — reported mass layoffs or furlough actions. On April 7, the Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa in Stateline notified officials that they planned to furlough 510 employees. On April 22, Harrah’s Casino Hotel Lake Tahoe and Harvey’s Resort Casino Hotel notified officials that 1,752 employees had been furloughed. And on April 24, the Tahoe Biltmore notified state officials that 96 employees had been laid off. 

“At this time, we cannot state the anticipated duration of this layoff,” the Biltmore said. “While we expect this layoff to be temporary, we cannot predict the spread of COVID-19, the government’s corresponding actions, or the impact this situation will have on our business moving forward.”

The lawsuits to come?

The WARN Act is meant to do what its acronym suggests: to warn of impending layoffs. 

Under the law, companies are typically required to give employees and state labor officials 60 days of notice before a mass layoff or plant closure. If they fail to do so, they could, in certain cases, be sued and held liable for paying employee salaries and benefits for 60 calendar days.

But with governments ordering the immediate closure of businesses across the country, WARN Act notifications have come weeks after the mass layoff or furlough occurred. Most companies are citing an exception to the 60-day notice rule for “unforeseeable business circumstances.”

It is unclear how that exception applies to the COVID-19 crisis. The U.S. Department of Labor issued a guidance about WARN Act requirements and COVID-19. Still, the guidance does not provide a definitive answer. The agency recommends businesses review the statutory language, but says the “guidance is not binding on courts and does not replace the advice of an attorney.”

The Labor Department argues the courts are responsible for enforcing the law. The guidance says the act “is enforced by private legal action brought in the U.S. District Court for any district in which the violation is alleged to have occurred or in which the employer transacts business.”

Christian Gabroy, a Las Vegas-based labor attorney who represents workers, said the situation is unprecedented. He said cases in which essential businesses — companies allowed to stay open — conducted mass layoffs of employees with little or no notice could run awry of the law. 

But the issue is likely to arise on a case-by-case basis. Gabroy said “companies are running the gamut on all different kinds of options,” all responding to the closures in different ways. 

"I've never seen anything like this in my 17 years of employment law,” Gabroy said. 

Murren details 30,000 per day testing goal, projects Las Vegas will see a ‘quicker’ recovery than most other places in the U.S.

Jim Murren, who helms the private-sector task force charged with assisting the state’s coronavirus response, envisions a near future in which 30,000 people a day will be tested in-state for COVID-19.

It’s an ambitious goal — about double, he says, from what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the state would need based on its population — but one he views as necessary in order to not only serve Nevada's two urban populations, but its rural residents and tourists as well.

“I believe that testing is a business imperative and needs to be viewed that way, not just as a public health response,” Murren said in an interview with The Nevada Independent on Thursday. “I’m fairly indifferent to where that capacity is housed, as long as it's convenient and close to the Strip. But I believe that that's a good goal to have.”

Murren outlined a future in which the county-run University Medical Center in Las Vegas is running 10,000 tests a day, Renown Regional Medical Center and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory in Reno are running another 10,000 tests a day, and 10,000 more tests are run elsewhere in Southern Nevada, perhaps at UNLV or another university.

“There's also a variety of other efforts that the task force could help support,” Murren said.

But an increase in testing isn’t the only change on the horizon. Murren, the former CEO of MGM Resorts, believes the pandemic may usher in a wave of new technologies across gaming companies, including ones that would allow guests to use their smartphones as their hotel room key and digital wallet.

“My vision for that is — and I go back to the first crisis I dealt with when I was in Las Vegas, which, of course, was 9/11 — 9/11 didn’t keep people from flying, it just changed the way we flew. Many protocols were put into place that we never envisioned before that horrific day, and it was hard to adjust at first. It was an inconvenience, there was time where it was a little disorganized, and then over time we adapted to that,” Murren said. “I view the same thing here.”

Murren said that he can see some events — such as sporting events, poker tournaments and prizefights — happening within the next 30 days, albeit with a fanless audience.

“I think that’s a potentially achievable goal,” Murren said.

The former gaming executive isn’t sure how long it will take the Las Vegas Strip to return to normal; however he does think that Las Vegas will see a speedier recovery than Orlando or New York.

“I think the recovery is going to be quicker here than most any other place in the United States,” Murren said.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Maybe we can start by talking about the personal protective equipment the task force has been able to secure. Has that been mostly securing donations to purchase PPE? Is it working directly with suppliers?

When we stood up the task force, we were very deliberate about who would join. We weren't looking for a blue ribbon committee or folks that were well-intentioned but just going to be resume padders. It was really the idea from the beginning that it's a very targeted, mission-driven, private sector, problem solving group of men and women. People have asked, on occasion, “Why haven't you tackled this issue or that issue?” Our feeling has been we need to stay very focused so that we could dig deep into some of the more pressing problems and then try to solve them and then move on. 

The most immediate need was PPE, a critical, dire need. We talked about that for the first couple of days, about how to tackle that, and we felt that we could leverage some of the largest companies' resources outside of the United States, and that's where I started with MGM and that led to working also with Wynn and with Las Vegas Sands and NV Energy and Nevada Gold Mines reaching out into their procurement channels. So first we stood up a procurement subcommittee. [NV Energy President and CEO] Doug Cannon and [PureStar West Region President] Alex Dixon run that. Doug Cannon has given us his services, his head of procurement, a woman named Adrien Lane. We contacted MGM China, Wynn China, Sands Macau, and put those procurement people in touch with this point.

We get a needs list from the state, which dynamically inputs from all the state agencies, hospitals, medical care providers, first responders, education. That needs list is accumulated by [the state Department of Health and Human Services], and we get that list and we go out and start fulfilling it by entering into purchase orders directly with manufacturers, largely in China but around the world.

It's been very successful. We had some missteps, meaning people that didn't fulfill orders. There's been a tremendous amount of cost inflation and devious actors that have tried to insert themselves, and we've been able to minimize, almost eliminate that entirely because of the heft of these bigger organizations. We have bought over $10 million worth of PPE that has either been delivered or is being delivered. We needed to raise philanthropic dollars in order to put down down payments and even get the attention of manufacturers and distributors for this PPE, so that was a big part of the effort.

You mentioned some bad actors. There have been some reports, especially early on, about planes filled with PPE getting intercepted by the U.S. government or other governments. Was that something that you all faced? 

We had a couple orders early on fall out. Before we spent any money, we had hands on, eyes on the product, and in at least one case … and it might have been two, an order was never fulfilled. Using the relationships that the three gaming companies have has been very, very valuable because they have been active for over a decade in that part of the world and they have established relationships with vetted sources. 

We also have been very mindful of cost. You read about these horror stories of people paying $6 for an N95 mask. We have been fortunate that we've been able to use these relationships to get purchased items at reasonable cost, and we've been buying as intelligently as we can. To date, we've had no instances of defective or counterfeit products. We have had, I know, a very good track record in terms of what we're paying for the PPE. 

But I've read horror stories and well-intentioned people, private sector, state governments, there's been a lot of fraud. Like any crisis, it brings out in many cases the best people but also the absolute worst of people. 

What happens to the PPE once it comes in?

One of the many good moves I believe the governor made was he stood up the National Guard and brought in Caleb Cage [the former chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management], who is well known in our state. Caleb and General [Ondra] Barry [the adjutant general of the Nevada National Guard] handle all the logistics. The task force doesn't decide what PPE we should buy. We're told by the state, and we act as a procurement arm and as soon as it hits Nevada, it goes to the state warehouses, north or south, and is distributed by the guard.

You mentioned the task force has raised $10 million to purchase PPE. Is that $10 million inclusive of the PPE that gaming companies have secured on their own to donate to the state?

We're up to $12 million now that we've raised, and we purchased $10 million worth of PPE and not all of it is actually in Nevada right now. Some of it is in transit. But that's the money that we have used, the philanthropic dollars, for PPE. In addition to that, many, many companies — construction, retail, energy, mining and, of course, gaming — have given in-kind donations, and those in-kind donations of PPE are treated the same way. They go right to the state warehouses and they are distributed based on DHHS.

Have we been in a better place to procedure PPE than other states because we have this task force? Do you have any sense of how we stack up?

I would say that we have our advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages are we are a small state with fewer resources in general. We have less of an evolved medical infrastructure than other states. On the other hand, the task force has been a positive element by bringing focus to a couple important areas of responding to the crisis. The large companies have, I think, leveled the playing field quite a bit. It's almost unheard of to raise $10 million in five days. That doesn't happen in most states, even much bigger states — to be able to raise money, stand up a purchasing network quickly, and be given the authority by the state to do this — there’s less state bureaucracy than in many states, including where I'm from, Connecticut. So I think it's a mix of some advantages we have and some disadvantages, and we certainly have overcome most of the disadvantages that a small state would normally have.

That's one thing I learned — I learned after 9/11, I learned during the Great Recession, I learned after 1 October — if there's any lesson to be learned through these very epic, horrific crises, it’s that relationships matter. They absolutely matter. Being able to pick up the phone, call somebody, people call you, to put a face to name is really valuable.

You have said that we need to get to 30,000 tests a day in Nevada. Where does that number come from?

Early on in the task force formation, we began to also respond to the urgent, very dire situation we were in as a state in terms of testing capacity. We did an inventory of the state's testing capacity ... We quickly came to some obvious conclusions that we were not prepared to be able to test our population. 

There are multiple problems. The first is that the state itself does not have the capacity to process tests at scale. It has testing laboratories, notably the Nevada state testing lab that Dr. [Mark] Pandori runs and UMC has a very fine laboratory. But specific to COVID testing, we did not have a depth of in-state labs. Second, is that therefore meant that we were vulnerable and dependent upon out-of-state labs to process our tests.

In diagnosing this problem, we quickly came to the conclusion we had to help stand up in-state testing labs, and we started with UMC. We got engaged with the management team there ... and they said, “Well, we were running off of this one platform. We liked it a lot. It's called DiaSorin, but we only can test 100 people a day.” Again, it's a razor blade, razor phenomenon. We can only test as many tests as we have. So we got on the phone with DiaSorin and we developed a relationship with them. They put us closer to the front of the line. We were getting more testing done with DiaSorin, which was the beginning of it. 

But then, learning about it, [UMC’s lab director] Lisa [Gorlick] talked to me that, you know, a more practical solution would in addition to that would be to find an open platform processor. She landed on Thermo Fisher as a manufacturer. The Thermo Fisher machine is a high throughput machine that can test thousands of samples a day, and so we worked with Thermo Fisher, they're based in Massachusetts, and we were able to help them borrow a couple of machines — two from the Department of Agriculture in Nevada, one from UNLV — and purchase others, and they're now building a second lab at UMC. It was an occupational therapy location, and they're literally building from the ground up a COVID laboratory at UMC, which is why they're able to scale up. Their goal is 10,000 tests by the end of this month. 

Then back up in Reno, Dr. Pandori and Renown, collectively are shooting for an objective of 10,000 tests daily to handle Washoe and the rural communities. Then, now back to Las Vegas, we're most likely going to need even more than the 10,000 tests daily, and we made it an objective to help find capacity for an additional 10,000. That's how you get to the 30,000 number that I've talked about.

It started with the CDC guidelines of what would be based on the population, that would have been roughly about half of that if you look at it statewide. But our feeling is that we're a very unique state for two respects. One is obviously the surge that we get from the tourist population north and south, but particularly in Las Vegas, and then secondly, the logistics of the rural population throughout the state and making sure that we are a state task force and so that we could make sure that there's ample testing capacity, particularly in remote areas, to minimize the turnaround time for test results.

My understanding is there is a group called G42 out of Abu Dhabi that is involved somehow in boosting testing capacity. What is their role?

Part of what we have been doing as a task force is looking around the world to see what best practices, what learnings can be adopted, can they be adapted to Nevada, and particularly in parts of the world where COVID had emerged early. 

Part of that outreach was to talk to folks in China and Hong Kong and Macau, but also folks in Europe and in the [United Arab Emirates]. Of course, the UAE and Las Vegas have a long relationship at multiple levels … We have a lot of friendship, relationships, and one of the intriguing emails I had was someone I know that said that this company G42 had partnered with a variety of companies around the world, Oxford Nanopore, which is a spinoff of the University of Oxford in the UK, Argonne, which is the National Lab in Chicago, and BGI, which is a large genomics company in China, and they had built from the ground up in 14 days a high throughput lab in Abu Dhabi, and that was very appealing as a potential prospect. 

So we got on the phone with the G42 people that had organized this pop-up laboratory — they've been building them in China and Europe and in Abu Dhabi — and we had their lab people talk with the UMC lab people about what our capabilities, what our current capacity was, and there was literally a pause in the conversation ...  they're talking to the scientists in Abu Dhabi about well, what kind of capacity do you have, what machinery are you running, what type of tests do you have, and our UMC folks laid out the state of affairs in Nevada, which is how much of the shortage we had on the basic building blocks of testing our population, consumables like swabs, wipes, the test kits themselves and reagents to be able to run them, and then, of course, the lack of machinery. 

It was really a poignant moment because there was a pause in the conversation and the folks in Abu Dhabi said, “Well, I don't know what we can do here, but let us think about it for a bit, and we'll get back to you.” I think the original expectation was to talk about how to strategize and reopening buildings and what a concert or a sporting event would look like in the kind of AI work that they're doing around the world to potentially reopen Premier League football stadiums in Europe and Formula One races, but there was quickly a realization that we are in a very different place. We have a crisis, and we couldn't have those kinds of lofty discussions when we're testing a couple hundred people a day. 

They got back to us and they said, I think we can help, and through the generosity of the Abu Dhabi government they sent over, via DHL, a tremendous amount of basic testing material — consumables swabs, test kits — they had in their possession in the UAE. That gave UMC incredible inspiration and the motivation also to encourage themselves to build the second lab that they have now built. As it relates to G42, it's still at a very high-level strategic discussion, because we're still trying to get through the building blocks of testing people in Nevada.

You mentioned the 10,000 tests at UMC and 10,000 up north. Where will the remaining 10,000 in Southern Nevada come from?

There are few options. It hasn't been determined yet. UMC is very ambitious ... They have, I’m sure, aspirations to be able to do more than 10,000, either on their campus or someplace else. There's also a variety of other efforts that the task force could help support, whether it's at UNLV or universities, like Roseman or Touro, or a standalone lab could produce. 

Ten thousand is considered to be more than the CDC guidelines based on our current population in Clark and the surrounding counties, what we would need in Southern Nevada. Based on the national guidelines, we should want to have a testing capacity of 4,000 or 5,000. We feel like we're Nevada so we want to do things better. 

But we also serve 43 million people a year in Las Vegas, and we have to think ahead and I believe that testing is a business imperative and needs to be viewed that way, not just as a public health response. I’m fairly indifferent to where that capacity is housed, as long as it's convenient and close to the Strip, but I believe that that's a good goal to have.

A lot of people are thinking about when the casinos open, what is that going to look like, and as we start thinking about big events, what protocols are we going to need to have in place. You mentioned utilizing AI technology. What kinds of things are in the works, and what tools will we have in our tool belt as we think about reopening gaming and entertainment?

A few things on that. The gaming companies and the entertainment owner-operators, the AEGs, the Live Nations, the convention companies, such as Reed, our convention center itself with Steve Hill, they’re all developing and they’ve hired a tremendous number of subject matter experts and, again, this is a global crisis that requires global cooperation and solutions. I’m finding a tremendous amount of cooperation and sharing of information and transparency between the gaming operators and other segments of the Nevada business community, and that isn’t always the case. I’ve been in the gaming business for 22 years, it’s not always as transparent and cooperative as it is right now. I think that’s an important positive.

The second is it’s a highly regulated industry and the Gaming Control Board is the gold standard in the world for regulating the unrestricted license holders, and they’ve set out some very clear requirements of what to expect in terms of health-safety protocol plans that the licensees have to submit. Some of them have been made public, like Wynn disclosed their initial plan, though I’m sure every plan is being amended, adopted, modified and improved as the information unfolds. Most of what you’ve written on is actually transpiring in terms of what type of protocols will be put into place.

It's not hard to understand how a resort like Bellagio can open with really safe, strong protocols, distancing machines, table separation, food and beverage modifications, or Wynn or the Venetian. That's smart business. There'll be some technology; there'll be some incredible diligence around that. What’s interesting for people to think about is how does the stadium, an arena, a large concert sporting event, how does that work? How will that feel? What will have to happen? Those are the big questions that are being asked right now. 

My vision for that is — and I go back to the first crisis I dealt with when I was in Las Vegas, which, of course, was 9/11 — 9/11 didn’t keep people from flying, it just changed the way we flew. Many protocols were put into place that we never envisioned before that horrific day, and it was hard to adjust at first. It was an inconvenience, there was time where it was a little disorganized, and then over time we adapted to that and then over time technology improved the experience, through companies like Clear or Global Entry.

I view the same thing here. This is a different security crisis. It’s a health security issue. I think there will be really an igniting of technological innovations that will dramatically increase the use of digital technologies for customer interaction. We’ve been talking about it for years. The technology is already there to use your smart device as your hotel room key, as your digital wallet, as your retail interface. It could also be used for any number of ticketing services, but it was only slowly being adopted before the pandemic because it's money. It takes money to retool thousands of hotel rooms. It takes money to exchange the back of the house systems that talk to one another, but it's going to become more and more the norm and, ultimately, a positive for consumers as it becomes more and more frictionless. I think that these large scale events are going to pave the way for a lot of that happening. 

You’ve talked about how things changed after 9/11. Can you paint a picture of what you think the new normal for Las Vegas might look like — in the short term things are going to look different — but what kinds of things do you think are going to stick with us from the pandemic?

I'm extremely hopeful, and I'm very committed to learning the lessons of the present and the past. In this case, the lesson of the present is we need to invest, significantly invest, in public health in Nevada, and it has to be viewed differently than it has been viewed generally or in the state. This is not just a public health crisis. This is an economic crisis, and we have to invest in public health, whether it's testing or other innovations to improve health outcomes as we would invest in a new restaurant or a stadium or any other building block to building our economy. It's as, if not more, important. So number one, I recognize that as a young state we’ve had some shortcomings. We have centers of excellence, we have some outstanding men and women in the field of medicine. But we can do more and we need to do more. That's number one. 

Secondly, there's two futures for Las Vegas. There’s the future that we're in now, until there's a vaccine and then there's the future when there will be a vaccine. Between now and when we're all vaccinated for this, we're just going to have to respect one another, we're going to have to act differently, we're going to have to share the responsibility in health. That's to the benefit of us all. I'm very confident in Las Vegas, in particular, because I know that we have a small number of companies that represent a vast majority of employees that are all thinking exactly the same way right now. I think that's going to permeate very broadly through the valley. I think technology investments will be more robust than ever before, even if that means that money is going to be allocated differently than in the past, maybe we don't renovate the next three restaurants, but we put that money into digital technology instead or into AI-backed solutions to improve logistics and customer interactions.

I believe that hospitality, entertainment, sports are essential to quality of life. I believe that people will continue to crave, desire those experiences. But I think also that we're going to have technology-based solutions around many of them, and that Las Vegas is going to open up in phases where you'll have a dynamic of gaming-centric customers coming back into the resorts to enjoy what they like to enjoy. We’ll have sporting events and poker tournaments and other events most likely initially in a fanless environment, but will be a great way to get out safety protocols, testing, distancing, and of course show the world Las Vegas, to have a prizefight or a UFC card. Why couldn’t that happen in the next 30 days? I think that’s a potentially achievable goal.

As we learn more about antibody testing and getting that as broadly based as possible, we'll also know more about what our level of safety is, and that's going to get people out more. But there's only one Las Vegas. 

These are privileged licenses, which means lack of adherence to these regulations means no business. A brand new stadium, an almost brand new arena, a lot of interest in sports, and very dedicated people who love our community, those are all very encouraging signs that we will come back. I feel confident that the Strip is going to feel the way it did the way it did last year with all the events. But I hope people feel a little bit differently, and I hope that we made some permanent changes in health infrastructure in the state.

How long do you think it will be for the Strip to feel the way it did?

It’s so hard. It’s just a total guess. My answer would be no better than anyone else’s. It boils down to the vaccine. When we have a broadly distributed vaccine not only for the United States but the key visiting countries of Europe, Asia, Latin America and Canada.

Do you think that means recovery will take longer here, because it’s not just about the recovery of the U.S. but of the global economy?

No, I think the recovery is going to be quicker here than most any other place in the United States. First of all, we have a huge drive-in business, half of our visitation. We have a very robust domestic fly-in business. The international business is bifurcated between the high-end business — which is going to come back very quickly, it always does, it’s come back very quickly after every crisis that we've had, and actually held up reasonably well during the Great Recession — and the group business. Now, the group business probably doesn't come back as quickly, but Las Vegas is not as dependent on the international group business as it is domestic business and the high-end international business. 

I like our outlook much better than, say, Florida or New York or some of our principal convention or hospitality competitors because of the ability to pivot very quickly and market very quickly as a value destination. I think it's going to be very possible that we come back before the others.

Live Blog: MGM suspends new reservations at Vdara

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., service economies have already begun to strain under a wave of pressure from health officials to close off large gatherings and limit exposure to highly public areas. 

That economic pain has the potential to become particularly acute in Nevada, where major casino operators alone have shed millions in stock value as dozens of major events from conventions to NHL games have been canceled or postponed. 

This live blog will contain the latest updates on the economic impacts of the coronavirus on Nevada’s local economies, as well as a listing of what events have so far been canceled, postponed or are scheduled to continue. To scroll directly to that list, click here

MGM suspends new reservations at Vdara

MGM Resorts International is suspending new hotel reservations at the Vdara Hotel & Spa, the first major shuttering of operations for a major Las Vegas Strip resort amid spread of the novel coronavirus.

The company confirmed Sunday that it would suspend future reservations for the hotel, located in CityCenter, but would honor existing reservations and would reduce some food and beverage outlets as a response to lower demand.

"In response to business volumes and demands, we are consolidating our operations," an MGM Resorts spokesperson said in an email. "Guests of Vdara will be relocated to Aria this week. Vdara will also not be accepting reservations for stays earlier than April 12.”

The Vdara is a 57-story tower with 1,495 suites, and was opened in 2009. It does not contain any casino space.

— Riley Snyder, 3/15/20 at 12:26 p.m.

Cirque suspends all Las Vegas shows

A day after suspending its touring and international shows, Cirque De Soleil announced Saturday that it would immediately suspend the circus company’s six residency shows in Las Vegas because of concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The suspended shows include “O” at the Bellagio, at the MGM Grand, The Beatles LOVE at The Mirage, Mystère at the Treasure Island, Zumanity at New York-New York and Michael Jackson ONE at Mandalay Bay.

The company made the announcement to suspend the shows on Twitter on Saturday evening, citing international and federal recommendations for social distancing and the “escalation of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Cirque said it would contact any individuals who have purchased tickets to canceled shows, and they would be reimbursed at the point of sale.

— Riley Snyder, 3/14/20 at 6:19 p.m.

March 14, 4:30 p.m.: Internal video shows Wynn Resorts CEO promising full-time employees pay during coronavirus crisis

Wynn Resorts’ chief executive officer, Matt Maddox, promises to continue paying full-time employees, even if they are not working, during this turbulent period, according to an internal video that features him speaking directly to them.

His brief remarks seek to reassure employees during the coronavirus crisis, which Maddox predicts will drop hotel occupancy rates to the “low teens” and lead to rolling closures of places such as spas, nightclubs and theaters.

“That to me is not our concern,” he says in the video. “What our concern is is that we all get through this together … But what we’re going to do during these challenging times is make sure all our full-time employees — whether you’re in a closed outlet or you’re working here — will be getting their pay.”

Although the trajectory and scope of the virus remains unknown, Maddox said the gaming company will do everything in its power to save jobs. He then calls on employees to take care of themselves and follow health protocols during this time.

“My commitment to you is that we’re in this together,” he says. “And I need your commitment that you’re going to take all of our protocols seriously and ensure that we continue to implement proper social distancing in all of our outlets to avoid spreading COVID-19 to any guest or any employees that are in here.”

— Jackie Valley

March 14, 10:55 a.m.: Gaming Control Board issues coronavirus-related notice to licensees

The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a notice to licensees Friday that lays out some general guidelines regarding COVID-19.

The one-page memo says the board expects all licensees to comply with coronavirus-related guidance published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It also advises them to consistently monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, perform routine environmental cleaning, encourage sick employees to stay home, ask employees to check CDC recommendations before traveling, and ensure that an “Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan” is in place.

“We will continue to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19, and expect that licensees will make the health and safety of their employees and patrons the highest priority by providing them with every available opportunity to remain healthy,” Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan wrote. 

The Gaming Control Board also said the notice was issued because of an increased number of inquiries — not in response to a complaint or concern.

Casinos across Nevada have taken steps to mitigate the spread of the upper-respiratory virus, including shuttering buffets, spas and nightclubs. No casinos here have announced closures, although some in other states have taken that step

— Jackie Valley

March 12, 3:15 p.m.: Investment group likens toll on travel to Las Vegas from coronavirus to effects from 9/11

Analysts with Innovation Capital said the impact on travel to Las Vegas because of the spread of the novel coronavirus would bear stark resemblance to the travel landscape in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The travel dry spell will likely hit destination casinos hardest, with regional operators likely able to rely on a steadier flow of local customers. Still, analysts added that customer traffic from Southern California could buoy Las Vegas casinos in the event of an extended foreign travel ban. 

During a conference call with investors and reporters Thursday, analysts and investors broke down a series of economic indicators that show a casino industry roiled by the still-uncertain economic effects of the virus. 

Stock prices among both major and regional operators and were down more than 38 percent from the start of the year, with the steepest drops coming just as global cases of the virus began to rise in late February. Gaming operator bond prices have also fallen roughly 8 percent, and the Innovation Capital report found those companies with heavy exposure in Macau — a gambling mecca in Southern China hit early by the coronavirus — have been affected most. 

Underscoring the economic situation for the gaming industry and beyond is growing air of uncertainty; global markets plunged day-after-day this week, and worries continue to grow that a downtick in consumer spending, spurred by fear of the coronavirus, could trigger a recession. 

“I think the market volatility plus the prolonged consumer fear, I think will likely result in reduced consumer discretionary spending,” Matt Sodl, president and managing director of Innovation Capital, said. “People are going to be spending more out of their pocket and focusing their reserves on the kind of the needed items that they need to exist on a daily basis, which is likely going to put us into a recession this year if we're not there already.”

— Jacob Solis

The original blog post continues below:

Dozens of major conferences, concerts, gatherings or other events have now been limited, postponed or outright canceled in the wake of mounting fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Those cancellations have spread far and wide, including everything from the City of Austin’s cancellation of South by Southwest last week to the announcement yesterday that Coachella — long a staple of the music festival circuit — would be postponed until October. 

It comes as cases of the coronavirus have steadily ticked up across the United States, with nearly 1,000 confirmed cases across 37 states and Washington, D.C. as of Tuesday. That includes Nevada, which confirmed its first so-called “presumptive positive” case of the disease late last week. 

The most severe outbreaks have so-far been limited to Washington State, with other hot spots in California and New York. But several high-profile cases of coronaviruses linked to major conferences — including the self-isolation of a handful Republican congressmen in the wake of a confirmed case of the virus at the major CPAC convention near the nation's capital — have increased public scrutiny of such large-scale events. 

No such outbreaks have yet affected the many convention halls of the Las Vegas Strip, but those spaces have nevertheless been hit quickly by a flurry of cancellations.

Such cancellations are widely expected to trigger ripples across the state’s service industry, though little concrete data on the scope of the issue is available; the wave of cancellations effectively began just last week, and residual effects on flights and other travel to Las Vegas may take several days or weeks to become clear. 

Below is a listing of what’s been canceled, what’s still being planned and what remains in-between. Entries will be updated as new information becomes available.

This list was last updated on Saturday, March 14 at 1:19 p.m.

Conventioneers at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 exit Las Vegas Convention Center on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020 is one of a handful of major conventions that has not canceled amid the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

What’s been canceled, closed or postponed

Combat Sporting Events — Postponed

The Nevada Athletic Commission has suspended all combat sporting events indefinitely, a decision that will affect UFC, Premier Boxing Championships and Top Rank Boxing, among others.

Museums - Closed

  • The state's seven museums will be closed to the public through March 29, according to a statement posted on Twitter by the public information officer for Nevada State Museums. The closure includes the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, the Nevada Historical Society in Reno, the Lost City Museum in Overton, the East Ely Railroad Depot Museum, the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Boulder City and the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City.

Kelly Clarkson Las Vegas Residency - Postponed

  • Kelly Clarkson, pop star and coach on the popular TV singing competition “The Voice,” announced Friday that the opening of her Las Vegas residency had been pushed from April 1 to July. In a statement released on Twitter, Clarkson said production on the show was shut down late on Thursday "out of concern and care for everyone's safety."

Las Vegas Senior Centers - Closed Indefinitely

  • The City of Las Vegas announced Friday that it will close the city’s senior centers beginning Saturday, March 14. The closures will affect five centers, as well as a portion of an additional community center that serves seniors. In a statement, the city said the decision was made in part to comply with today’s declaration of a national emergency. 
  • The city also announced that it will cancel its "Corporate Challenge," an amateur sports competition for employees of local companies, following increasing concern over the coronavirus from participants.

Jonas Brothers Las Vegas Residency  - Canceled

  • The Jonas Brothers announced via Twitter Friday that their residency at Park MGM, originally scheduled between April 1 through April 18, was canceled because of concerns over the coronavirus. In a statement, the popular pop-music trio said they made the decision to “keep everyone healthy,” adding that tickets can be refunded at the original point of purchase.”

Nevada Museum of Art - Programs Canceled; Museum remains open

  • The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno announced that it will cancel all public programs and public tours through the end of March. The museum and museum shops will remain open, however, with museum officials monitoring the situation on a day-by-day basis. 

Downtown Events Center (Las Vegas) - Canceled

  • The Downtown Events Center in Las Vegas announced it will cancel all remaining concerts and events through the end of April. That includes two concerts, two food festivals and one two-day reggae music festival.

Smith Center for the Performing Arts - Suspended 

  • The Smith Center for the Performing Arts announced Friday that it would go dark until the end of March, suspending all performances after this weekend until then. In a tweet, it urged ticket holders to keep their reservations, and pledged to reschedule as many performances as possible. 
  • The announcement comes less than 24 hours after Smith Center CEO Myron Martin pledged to continue regularly scheduled performances with enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.

MGM Resorts Nightclubs and Dayclubs - Temporarily Closed

  • MGM Resorts International announced Friday that it will temporarily close all nightclubs and dayclubs across MGM properties. The news follows an announcement by the company earlier this week that it planned to suspend operation of casino buffets beginning this weekend.
  • By Friday afternoon, MGM announced it would be closing all of its spas, salons and fitness centers beginning Monday, March 16. The company did not provide a timeline for reopening those facilities.

Wynn Resorts Amenities - Temporarily Closed

  • Wynn Resorts announced Thursday that it would temporarily close buffets, nightclubs and theaters at its properties in both Las Vegas and Boston. The closure follows an announcement earlier this week that MGM Resorts would close its buffets by the end of the week.

Nevada Universities - Moved Online

  • Officials at UNR and UNLV moved to accelerate the timeline by which they would move classes online, announcing late Thursday that online instruction would begin on March 23 at both universities, just after spring break. Under the current plan, teachers who aren’t prepared to teach online may cancel classes on the 23rd and 24th, but start instruction no later than Wednesday, March 25.

Collegiate Athletics - Canceled 

  • On Thursday morning, the NCAA confirmed it would cancel the March Madness men’s and women’s basketball tourneys, in addition to all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. It’s a move that came shortly after the NBA and NHL moved to suspend their own regular seasons.
  • The Board of Governors for the Mountain West conference quickly followed suit, issuing a statement Thursday that all spring sports events and competitions would be canceled. The move affects athletics programs at both UNR and UNLV.

WinterWonderGrass music festival (Tahoe) - Canceled

  • Organizers for the WinterWonderGrass bluegrass music festival in Tahoe’s Squaw Valley — originally scheduled for the end of this month — announced the cancellation of the festival Thursday in the wake of a decision by California officials to ban events larger than 250 people. The announcement added that all musical acts booked for 2020 have agreed to return in 2021, and general admission tickets for the festival will be rolled over to next year.

NHL Regular Season - Suspended

  • The NHL Board of Governors moved to suspend the regular season following a conference call Thursday morning with league Commissioner Gary Bettman and team owners. The move comes after the NBA abruptly suspended its own regular season last night in the wake of news that a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for coronavirus.

Vegas Golden Knights - Suspended

  • On March 12, the team acknowledged games would be cancelled indefinitely after the NHL said it was suspending the season. The team issued a statement saying "The health and safety of our members, fans and our community as a whole is a top priority ... Thank you in advance for your understanding."

USL Soccer Games - Suspended

  • Officials for the United Soccer League Championship, a Division II soccer league, announced Thursday that they will suspend all games for at least 30 days. That puts games for two Nevada teams, the Las Vegas Lights and Reno 1868, on hold until the league can work to reschedule games. 

Special events on public property (Reno) - Suspended

  • The City of Reno suspended special events permits Thursday for events scheduled on public property through the end of April. That includes tickets bought for two games for the Reno Aces minor league baseball team through the city’s Parks and Recreation department. A full list of canceled events can be found on the city’s website.

Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Meeting and Trump Speech - Postponed/Canceled

  • Organizers for the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Annual Meeting at the Venetian this weekend announced Wednesday evening that they would postpone the event following consultation with the White House and outside experts. The announcement comes less than an hour after President Donald Trump’s campaign announced it would cancel two weekend appearances by the president, including the RJC meeting and a campaign event scheduled in Colorado. 

National Association of Broadcasters Show - Postponed

  • In a statement released on Twitter Wednesday, organizers for the National Association of Broadcasters Show — a massive conference expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees — said it would “not be possible” to hold the show for the planned dates in April at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In the statement, organizers said they are continuing to explore additional options, and no new date or location was announced.

Cinemacon - Canceled

  • In a statement Wednesday night reported by and others, the National Association of Theater Owners announced it was canceling the event scheduled for Caesars Palace from March 30-April 2. Organizers said it was “with great regret” that they called off the event, which has attracted about 5,000 attendees in recent years, but said with a travel ban from the European Union and other restrictions in place from coronavirus, it would be “impossible for us to mount the show that our attendees have come to expect.”

Reno Jazz Festival - Canceled

  • Organizers at the UNR School of the Arts announced Wednesday that they will cancel plans for this year’s Reno Jazz Festival, scheduled to take place at the university beginning April 23. The decision comes directly from the School of the Arts; UNR has so far allowed individual event organizers on campus to make case-by-case decisions on cancellations or postponements.

MGM Resorts Buffets - Temporarily closed

  • MGM Resorts International announced Tuesday that it would temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets beginning Sunday, March 14. In a statement, the company said it would evaluate reopening those buffets on a weekly basis. The move is the first such closure initiated by a major casino operator and comes in the wake of sharp drops in the stock prices for the gaming giants of the Las Vegas Strip. 

Chinese Dragon Lights (Reno) - Canceled

  • Organizers for the Chinese Dragon Lights art display say travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus have made it impossible to move forward with the summertime return of the display as part of Reno’s Artown festival. Speaking to the Reno Gazette-Journal, organizers said that they maintained additional concerns over an outbreak in the U.S. — concerns Artown say have now been borne out.

Pink Heavenly fundraiser (Tahoe) - Canceled/Postponed

  • Organizer Barton Health announced this week that it has canceled on-mountain events as part of its Pink Heavenly cancer fundraiser in Lake Tahoe scheduled for later this month. In a statement, the organization said it would continue to fundraise outside of the event, as well as roll any money raised in 2020 into next year’s Pink Heavenly event. 

Wanderlust Festival (Tahoe) - Canceled

  • International health, wellness and yoga company Wanderlust announced it will cancel all U.S. events this year, including a music festival planned for Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley this summer. In a statement released March 1, Wanderlust CEO Sean Hoess said the uncertainty around coronavirus prompted the move as well as cancellations of similar Wanderlust events in Asia.

Adobe Summit - Canceled; Moved online

  • A 20,000-person conference scheduled to take place at the Sands Convention Center at the end of the month, the Adobe Summit, has now been moved to an online-only affair. Announced early last week, Adobe was one of the first companies to preemptively back out of a major conference in anticipation of a worsening spread of the coronavirus. 

Google Internal Conference - Canceled; Moved online

  • Google joined several other tech giants in canceling in-person events when they axed plans for a major internal marketing conference set for this month, in addition to canceling its hallmark bay-area event, I/O 2020. Like other tech companies, Google has largely replaced such events with online-based options, instead. 

Atlassian Summit - Canceled; Moved online

  • Like Google, software developer Atlassian canceled in-person events for its Atlassian Summit at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, scheduled for early April. Instead, the company will move planned seminars to online sessions. 

Shoptalk - Postponed

  • More than 8,000 were scheduled to attend the Shoptalk retailer conference later this month at Mandalay Bay. Organizers have now kicked the date back to September, though they still plan on using event space at Mandalay Bay. 

NXT Global Summit - Canceled

  • The first-ever NXT Global summit, billed as a “collection of conferences, festivals, trade shows and engaging events” at the Las Vegas Convention Center, was canceled last week, months away from the planned conference date in July. Organizers said in a statement that they’ve shifted focus toward a new event in 2021.

SAP Ariba Live - Canceled; Moved online

  • Organizers for a conference from the software company SAP Ariba scheduled for the end of this week announced they would move presentations online and cancel in-person convention plans at the Wynn. SAP Ariba’s 2019 conference had drawn roughly 2,500 attendees

SuiteWorld20 - Postponed

  • Software company Oracle Netsuite announced it would kick back the date for its SuiteWorld20 conference from April 20 to August 10. In an announcement on the SuiteWorld website, organizers said the event will still be held at the Las Vegas Sands and Venetian convention centers. 

ISC West - Postponed

  • Organizers of ISC West 2020, a security industry trade show, have pushed conference dates from March 17 back to July, though they expect to remain at the Las Vegas Sands Convention Center. In a statement published on the ISC Website, organizers said new dates will be announced soon. 

IWCE 2020 - Postponed

  • No new dates have been announced for the International Wireless Communications Expo, which was slated to begin on March 30 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. In a statement released online, organizers said the decision was made in light of increasing corporate travel restrictions.

Las Vegas Polo Classic - Postponed

  • Originally scheduled for April 18, the Lamborghini Las Vegas Polo Classic has been postponed until July 16 “due to coronavirus concerns,” according to a statement released on the organization’s website. 

Channel Partners Conference - Postponed

  • The Channel Partners Conference and Expo was canceled just three days before the planned March 9 start date at the Sands Expo Convention Center, with organizers promising to announce a new date in the near future. For now, the Channel Partners Expo reads: TBD-2020. 

What’s still scheduled, on-track or remaining open

K-12 Schools

  • Officials at Nevada’s two largest school districts in Clark and Washoe Counties have yet to move cancel in-person classes, though they are exploring contingency plans as the situation around the coronavirus continues to develop. 
  • At least one private school, Bishop Manogue high school in Reno, has closed until March 30, with plans to move classes online in the week following spring break. 

ConExpo-Con/Agg 2020

  • A major construction expo with nearly 130,000 registered attendees, ConExpo-Con organizers announced in a statement last week that exhibitors pulling out of the convention represented less than 2 percent of the 2.7 million sq. ft. of floor space being used. That nearly included Swedish Automaker Volvo, whose construction vehicle arm re-committed to the show Friday after previously backing out. 

2020 NFL Draft 

  • Scheduled for late April, the 2020 draft in Las Vegas “remain in place,” the NFL said Tuesday, though the league remains in contact with world health authorities and the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network. One of the biggest in-person events put on by the NFL every year, the 2019 Draft in Nashville, Tennessee drew a record 600,000 attendees. The 2020 festivities — which include plans for draft prospects to be ferried by boat to a floating stage at the Bellagio fountains — had drawn renewed buzz ahead of a move by the Raiders football team to Las Vegas later this year. 

World Series of Poker

  • Though it is not set to kick off until late May, organizers for the World Series of Poker told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they have no plans to cancel the event at the Rio.  

Like the coronavirus itself, much remains unknown about its effect on health care system, tourism sector

A little more than a week ago, a who’s-who of Nevada leaders — the governor, attorney general, state superintendent and health officials from across the state — packed a government building lobby in downtown Las Vegas.

They came to display a unified front as Nevada braced for what seemed inevitable: a coronavirus case within the Silver State’s borders. Gov. Steve Sisolak even demonstrated the proper technique for coughing or sneezing into an elbow.

“We’re going to prepare, not panic,” he said.

Five days later, on Wednesday, Nevada’s first patient tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. Then came a second case in Reno the following day, and the third and fourth cases in Southern and Northern Nevada on Sunday.

While the state awaits official testing confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a different kind of test has begun playing out in Nevada. The emergence of the upper respiratory disease that has sickened about 100,000 people worldwide and killed more than 3,300 stands to challenge the state’s health-care system, tourism sector and education department to varying degrees. Hospitals are readying for a potential influx of patients. Resorts are installing hand-sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas. School districts are canceling student trips and forming contingency plans.

Still, no one knows how widespread the coronavirus will emerge in Nevada or how long it will last, making public health and economic predictions difficult, if not, impossible. Other tragedies that either directly or indirectly affected Nevada, such as 9/11, the October 1 mass shooting and natural disasters, had more clear-cut beginning and end points, at least in terms of the event itself.

“The challenge with this one is the event is either A) happening, or, B) still ahead of us,” said Billy Vassiliadis, chief executive officer of R&R Partners, the ad agency that produces marketing campaigns for Las Vegas.

Sisolak at coronavirus press conference
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak demonstrates how to cover while sneezing during a news conference about coronavirus preparations on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Planning for patient influx

When the United States’ first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed Jan. 21 in a 35-year-old Washington man who had recently traveled to the center of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, it was only a matter of time before it was Nevada’s turn. True, there was only one airline, Hainan Airlines, that flew direct to China before suspending flights earlier this year. But with more than 50 million people flying through McCarran International Airport last year, the odds were never in Las Vegas’ favor.

So some considered it a small mercy that the first case of the novel coronavirus in the state wasn’t confirmed until Wednesday, in a Clark County man in his 50s who had known travel history to Washington, a locus for the virus’s outbreak in the U.S., and Texas, which also has many confirmed cases. 

“Every day that we don’t have a confirmed case just gives us one more day to take a deep breath and plan,” said John Packham, an associate dean at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine.

But the timing of the first diagnosis was also a byproduct of another mathematical reality. Labs in the state had only run 14 tests for COVID-19, which all came back negative, as of Tuesday evening. With a limited number of tests available, only a select number of patients, generally those with cough, fever and shortness of breath who recently traveled to a known affected region, have been tested for coronavirus in the state.

Where South Korea has gone so far as to offer voluntary drive-through coronavirus testing and identified thousands of patients with the virus, a botched test distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has meant the U.S. has tested relatively few people. In the state of Washington, researchers have determined the coronavirus has been likely circulating for weeks based on DNA evidence.

“It’s very likely that there is already community transmission here that we don’t know about,” said Dr. Kevin Murphy, an infectious disease specialist in Reno. “And that’s in part because we haven’t been able to ramp up our testing rapidly enough.”

So far, officials with the Southern Nevada and Washoe County health districts have said there is no evidence of community transmission. At least three of the four patients who have tested presumptively positive for the disease are thought to have acquired it elsewhere — the Clark County man during his travels to one of two states, a man in Northern Nevada who was a recent passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship linked to several cases of the virus, and a second Washoe County man in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Clark County man, a veteran who was identified through the Southern Nevada VA Health System, is in "serious condition," health officials said this week, while the Northern Nevada men are recovering from the virus in self-isolation at home. No further details were immediately available on Sunday about the fourth case in Clark County.

With the first four presumptively positive patients identified in the state, public health officials and doctors are continuing to prepare for additional cases to surface. On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services said local health officials were monitoring a total of 40 residents who had recently traveled aboard the Grand Princess, and Washoe County Health District officials tested kids at Huffaker Elementary School in Reno, attended by family members of the Northern Nevada man and where there has been a recent uptick in influenza-like symptoms among students. All the tests for kids at Huffaker came back negative for COVID-19, officials said Friday night.

“It’s a virus, and it’s going to spread all over the world,” said Dr. Dale Carrison, the former head of emergency at UMC and now an emergency room physician at Carson Tahoe Health. “There’s nothing anyone can do about it. It's a virus. It spreads.”

The Southern Nevada Health District main facility as seen in Las Vegas on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

While Nevada is known for having some of the worst health care in the nation, health officials here aren’t too worried about the state’s ability to handle an influx of cases. Carrison, who at one point chaired the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security, noted the networks that exist between hospitals to support each other in the event of a crisis, public health or otherwise.

“You look at our statistics and say our medical care is bad, but you couldn’t have had a more cooperative group of hospitals and people in the community on this earth,” he said.

But if 500 people get sick in Las Vegas at the same time?

“Well, that’s a problem,” Carrison said. “But guess what? That’s a problem in every city of the United States of America.”

The biggest pressure point experts see here is in hospital emergency rooms, which are already overcrowded. They worry that an influx of coronavirus patients needing hospitalization — coupled with only minorly ill patients or those who may worry they have contracted the disease flooding emergency rooms — could put intense stress on the system.

“My biggest concern is hospitals really both north and south that are already operating at capacity,” said Packham, who also chairs the Patient Protection Commission. “They already have disruption with just seasonal influenza, much less trying to think about how they’re going to deal with or isolate patients that have tested positive and so forth in their current operations.”

That’s why health officials are spending so much time educating the public about the symptoms of the disease — typically cough and fever — and urging people to stay home, don’t go to school or work, isolate themselves from others and treat their symptoms with over-the-counter medications. For those who do require medical attention, doctors advise calling ahead so as to not unnecessarily expose health care workers on the frontline of fighting the coronavirus.

“What we are trying to do is make sure that we’re preserving our workforce so we’re not having self-inflicted wounds on the front end,” said Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick. “Then we will be working to have individuals if they are tested positive for COVID and they can isolate at home and don’t need hospitalization, our plan is to do that rather than to drive people toward the hospitals, and we would try to preserve their capacity for dealing with the more severe.”

And while Nevada does suffer from a physician shortage — the state ranks 48th in the nation for active patient care physicians per capita — experts say there isn’t much to be done about that right now.

“We have whatever we have. We’re not going to increase the number of physicians in Nevada in time to make any difference,” Murphy said. “We have to deal with what we’ve got.”

It’s not just doctors either. SEIU Local 1107, which represents 9,000 nurses and hospital workers throughout the state, is scheduling meetings with hospital administrators to discuss their preparedness plans for coronavirus.

“We’re going to bring our members, representatives, to make sure that the plan is something that is okay because the members, the nurses and the ancillary staff, they will know more what are the things that needs to be done in terms of how to be safe,” said Grace Vergara-Mactal, the union’s executive director. “We want to make sure that we are part of that preparedness plan and not just them creating it and just giving us a piece of paper.”

There’s also a concern that patients who need to be tested for COVID-19 won’t want to, for fear of the cost. To that end, the governor adopted an emergency regulation on Thursday barring state-regulated health from billing patients for visits to provider offices, urgent care centers or emergency rooms to be tested for the coronavirus.

“Countries like South Korean, Japan and even China where those cost considerations are not being weighed before you get medical treatment are not getting in the way like they will here,” Packham said. “There will always be an element of that.”

The bad news is that the coronavirus appears to be highly transmissible and the World Health Organization has pegged the global fatality rate at 3.4 percent. The good news is that experts predict that the fatality rate will likely decrease over time because the milder cases, including those with few to no symptoms, are probably going undiagnosed — particularly in the U.S., where testing has been limited.

“What proportion of people with this virus never get sick, just get immune — that may be a large percentage,” Murphy said. “We know of those who get sick, 80 percent have mild disease, but that may just be the tip of the iceberg. There may be a much larger portion of infected persons who never get sick.”

In the meantime, experts are reminding people to wash their hands, clean frequently touched surfaces, avoid shaking hands with others and stay home from school and work if symptomatic. Not only are they good measures for preventing the coronavirus, they said, but also the seasonal flu, which has already claimed 35 lives in Clark County this season. 

“A lot of sick people come in, retirees, they fly all over the world,” Carrison said. “I just have to do the things that I know work — wash your hands and if you’re sick, don’t go to work.”

“I think I’ve had a flu-like illness once in the last three to five years and all I do is see sick patients,” Carrison added. “I’m certainly not superman.”

Southwest Airlines flight departs McCarran International Airport on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The tourism factor

The outbreak of the coronavirus in China served as a cautionary economic tale for Nevada from the get-go. Casinos in Macau closed for an unprecedented 15 days, tanking revenue in the process.

Bloomberg reported gaming revenue down by about 88 percent in February from last year, a slump that could hurt major Las Vegas companies in the first quarter given their Macau presence. Major Strip casino operators — Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts — all discussed the potential impacts of the coronavirus in annual report filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

In an annual filing dated Feb. 7, Las Vegas Sands reported that its Singapore and Las Vegas operations could also be “adversely impacted” if travel restrictions stay in place “or the global response to contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus escalates or is unsuccessful.”

Citing similar restrictions in Macau, MGM Resorts also predicted it could “see material declines in MGM China’s operating results during the first quarter of 2020 and potentially thereafter.”

“Additionally, to the extent that the virus impacts the willingness or ability of customers to travel to our properties in the United States (due to travel restrictions, or otherwise), our domestic results of operations could also be negatively impacted,” MGM Resorts said in its Feb. 27 filing.

Some properties have taken steps to address the coronavirus with employees and guests.

A spokesperson for Wynn Resorts, which also noted the coronavirus in a February federal filing, referred The Nevada Independent to a website it created with information about the virus. The website says the gaming company is consulting with a public health expert from Georgetown University Medical Center, mandating a stay-at-home policy for workers and sanitizing door knobs, elevator buttons, handrails and other touchpoints at an increased frequency.

“Just like you, we are closely monitoring new developments regarding the coronavirus, and we are taking every proactive step to make Wynn a haven in these uncertain times,” the site says.

On Friday, MGM Resorts also released a statement saying that although the risk to the broader public remains low, it “implemented temporary enhanced cleaning procedures and protocols.”

Those measures include placing hand sanitizer stations in heavily-trafficked areas, increasing disinfecting procedures and providing information to guests and employees about prevention.

What the industry can’t control, however, is actual visitation. Several high-profile organizations have canceled upcoming meetings, conferences or conventions in Las Vegas. A special summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, planned for mid-March, was canceled. Organizers of the 2020 NXT Global Summit, which focuses on the future of how people live and work, also canceled the mid-July event.

“Although our event is still a few months away, it is clear that our sponsor and exhibitor partners, as well as ticket holders, are making the choice to forego any and all large-scale events for the foreseeable future and it is simply not tenable for us to launch our event in this climate,” the organizers said in a statement posted to their website. ”Therefore, in keeping the health and wellbeing of our attendees as well as our own team in mind, we have decided we will cancel the 2020 NXT Global Summit and continue planning for our expanded 2021 event.”

At least two other conferences — Adobe Summit and Magento Imagine and Atmosphere 2020 — canceled their in-person gatherings in Las Vegas and, instead, announced virtual events.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority hasn’t released a full list of cancellations, saying it could only speak for events happening at the Las Vegas Convention Center, not ones occurring at individual casino-resort properties. But announcements by event organizers indicate that cancellations or postponements haven’t become a sweeping standard within the industry.

A major construction trade show known as CONEXPO-CON/AGG is proceeding with its March 10-14 event. The organization’s website encourages attendees and exhibitors to stay home if sick but also notes 18,000 new people have registered since Feb. 21.

ASD Market Week, the nation’s largest consumer merchandise trade show that meets twice a year in Las Vegas, is doing the same. Organizers weighed the current health circumstances with the long-term economic consequences for the many small- to medium-sized businesses that rely on attending the March 22-25 event. 

“It’s a really fine line, and it’s a really difficult decision, but we’ve made the decision to proceed ahead,” said Lori Silva, executive vice president of retail for Emerald, which organizes ASD Market Week. “We feel like we are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of everybody.”

But she noted that decision is subject to change if the coronavirus situation worsens in Las Vegas.

“If there was a massive cluster going on, yes, we’d have to take a step back and revisit whether that balance of short-term safety and long-term economic safeties is still right,” she said.

Likewise, the Republican Jewish Coalition has not scrapped its annual leadership meeting, including an address from President Donald Trump, planned for mid-March in Las Vegas.

Matt Brooks, the coalition’s executive director, said the decision heeds the Trump administration’s advice to go about normal routines while following basic hygiene prevention methods.

“We are giving all of our attendees a little bottle of Purell,” he added.

A shelf that normally holds toilet paper sits nearly empty inside a Target store in Henderson on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

The proceed-as-normal mindset appears to be prevailing in the sports world as well — at least for now.

The NFL did not respond to an emailed request for comment, but a league spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal Thursday that the NFL had made no plans to cancel the draft. That follows an announcement the league made Tuesday that, while it continues to monitor developments, was making no plans to cancel the draft or any other offseason events. 

The Raiders also did not respond to a request for comment, though a statement provided to The Nevada Independent from the Vegas Golden Knights hockey team — which routinely draws more than 18,000 fans to home games — said the organization plans to continue normal operations. 

“We are closely monitoring the situation while following recommendations and guidance from the CDC and NHL. At this time, we are continuing our normal operations,” the statement said. “We advise our fans, program participants and staff to continue employing the same precautions they do during cold and flu season, encourage them to stay home if they feel sick and frequently wash hands thoroughly as they would do to avoid any communicable illness."

The NHL released a statement Wednesday that it was continuing to monitor the virus’ spread and draw up contingency plans ahead of the league’s playoffs next month. But the quick spread of the disease in countries such as Italy and Japan has intensified scrutiny of everything from soccer games to the Olympics. 

And in Washington state, where the coronavirus spread has been most acute in the U.S., season ticket sales for a soon-to-come NHL team in Seattle have been postponed amid lingering questions over the virus’ short-term effects.

Even so, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and representatives from the travel, hotel, airline and retail industries tried to assuage consumer fears during a news conference Wednesday.

“Our response has to be grounded in fact and not fear,” Chamber Chief Executive Tom Donohue said. “What we’re telling our the same advice we are following ourselves. Be prudent, be prepared and don’t overreact. We should be guided by the facts and the advice from medical experts and the federal, state and local officials who are dealing with this situation. That largely means business as usual with limited exceptions.”   

The U.S. Travel Association projects international inbound travel to the U.S. will fall 6 percent over the next three months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak and will cost the U.S. economy about $3 billion.

The decline would be the largest in international inbound travel since the 2008 financial crisis.

But Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, said he expects travel to snap back once the crisis abates.

“There's going to be a short term, a few folks, and I say a few relative to the masses, that will stay away, but it's going to pop up bigger than ever,” Dow said after the Chamber event. “And what happens is that they put off travel, they don't just say ‘I'm not going to do it.’ They say, ‘I'll do it, not this week, but I'll do it next.’ I'd be naive to say there's not going to be a small drop, but it's going to come back pretty fast.”

He also said that Chinese travelers are also starting to come back, which is an important market for places like Las Vegas. Traditionally, about 80 percent of Las Vegas visitors come from within the United States, while foreign tourists make up the other 20 percent.

Ultimately, Las Vegas’ reputation as the “escape capital of the world” may help during this period, Vassiliadis said. Domestic travelers who postpone elongated trips overseas may be more inclined to schedule a shorter getaway to Las Vegas.

 “This is where people come to leave their worries and burdens behind,” he said.

On the Las Vegas Strip, tourists who spoke to The Nevada Independent remained nonplussed — if not a bit more aware of how often they were washing their hands. 

“I’ve been reading about it, but it hasn’t been an issue where I live,” tourist Susanne York said. “Other than when my husband went to Costco to get toilet paper, they were all out.”

Updated March 8, 2020 at 10:45 a.m. to reflect a second case announced in Washoe County.

Updated March 8, 2020 at 2:55 p.m. to reflect a third case in Clark County.