MGM layoffs a reminder of the scale of the industry – and the pandemic By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports September 2, 2020 at 8:00 pm The numbers are overwhelming. MGM Resorts International’s announcement this week that it was laying off 18,000 workers companywide due to the ongoing economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic sent a chill through the gaming industry. It’s not so much that the layoffs were unexpected. The reeling company furloughed approximately 62,000 employees in March in reaction to a shuttered economy. You don’t need an MBA to surmise there’s little promising about the country’s current condition. The nation’s economy isn’t bouncing back; it’s clawing its way out of the darkness. MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle managed to put only a slightly more optimistic spin on it in a letter to employees: “While the immediate future remains uncertain, I truly believe that the challenges we face today are not permanent.” Not in theory, at least. In reality, no one really knows how long our collective nightmare will last. Nevada’s largest employer is representative of other behemoth corporations that are absorbing withering hits. But whether gigantic and public traded, or a small business with only a few employees, the setback is the same. And, for now, there’s little to be done to change that. Since late March unemployment claims have averaged more than one million per week. The question people need to ask themselves is whether this moment was inevitable or could have been largely prevented by taking aggressive action at the national level to stop the spread of the coronavirus shortly after the outbreak reached the United States. That critical failure, that abject incompetence, will continue to be politicized well beyond November’s presidential election as the polarized nation brawls about its future. The Trump Administration, never one to admit a mistake, continues to up the ante with claims of a vaccine coming in a matter of weeks when most experts counter that, at the earliest, it shouldn’t be expected until the spring of 2021. Others continue the misleading talk about a “herd immunity” strategy, rhetoric that will satisfy only those who deny the undeniable and want to stop the economic relief that is keeping millions of Americans off the street: That it didn’t have to be this way. MGM Grand Las Vegas As one Oxford economist told The Associated Press, “Ultimately, the recovery in the economy and the job market will depend on a medical solution to the coronavirus. In the near term, we think the lack of further federal support poses serious downside risks to the outlook.” It’s as simple, and as politically complicated, as that. What’s not clear is just how much any company, no matter how resilient, will be able to bounce back even after that medical solution is found. It’s not a matter of the dust settling and throwing a reopening party. Peoples’ finances and personal lives are devastated. Many are changed forever. It’s only anecdotal, but I’ve listened to many dozens of people in recent months who talk about no longer wanting to enter large crowds even after a vaccine has been found. Their habits are changing, and I increasingly wonder whether that change is permanent. The rush of those desperate to get their Vegas on in the wake of the partial reopening of the casinos and other businesses in June seemed like a positive sign, but the resurgence of the virus and with it the rising COVID-19 death toll have cast a pall across the nation. It’s no surprise that at least some of those tourists transported the virus back home. The numbers are overwhelming: nearly 185,000 American deaths and counting. Some experts believe that the more accurate figure is already in excess of 200,000. As the lights continue to flicker in Las Vegas and elsewhere, we should remind ourselves that it didn’t have to be this way. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.