Wynn Resorts offers a thoughtful way forward amid pandemic noise By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports April 22, 2020 at 8:00 pm These are strange and challenging days for the gaming industry, and not merely because its high-rises, marquees and casinos are dark in the midst of a deadly worldwide coronavirus pandemic. It’s been a little over a month. An unprecedented shutdown has put many thousands out of work and sent stocks plummeting. Some are being kept on salary, but many are not. The heartache at home is compounded by the fact that the COVID-19 virus has killed more than 160 Nevadans, more than 46,000 Americans, and more than 180,000 people worldwide. And the number of confirmed new cases remains in excess of 25,000 each day. But that’s not what makes these such challenging times for the gaming industry. It’s what makes it like so many other businesses in our country that are part of a shared sacrifice to battle the virus on the best possible grounds – scientific ones. What makes these deceptively difficult days for the casino business is that it has had to recalibrate its powerful traditional marketing machinery and focus not on nonstop party imagery, but on the greater business at hand: ensuring customer health and safety in the tremulous days ahead. That’s part of what made last week’s reopening strategy by Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox so heartening. First published in The Nevada Independent, the 23-page Health and Sanitation Program is a document as practical as it is heartening. The plan is based on accepted best practices to slow the spread of the virus. Most of the ideas are pretty basic: increased handwashing, strict physical distancing, not more than four persons in an elevator at a time, and closed valet parking. Some of it is more innovative: thermal cameras and temperature checks at points of entry, for instance. I believe smart companies eventually will blend a health and sanitation response team with their well-established security units. In the future, I’ll bet the Eye in the Sky won’t be just watching the games, but the players’ temperatures as well. Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) The move by Wynn Resorts isn’t surprising. It’s one of several casino corporations that have stepped up on behalf of employees steamrolled by the shutdown. It was quick to respond to the pandemic and has earmarked $180 million to pay its 15,000 employees for two months during the shutdown. Doing the right thing is hard, but it’s also smart. Mature leaders know that. In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak this week shared the earliest part of a multi-phase plan to reopen the state. His science-over-scare tactics approach has drawn criticism from some, frankly, loony circles, but he’s made it clear the state will not let down its guard. The reopening, when it happens, will come after announced cases drop for two weeks, and testing and tracing substantially improves, among several factors. Sounds like Sisolak, Wynn Resorts, and other operators are on the same page. Let’s hope it stays that way. The trouble is the signals are mixed in the Silver State. The farther right you move on the political radio dial, the louder the calls to reopen the state as soon as possible – if not sooner. The nuttiest rhetoric has been pouring out of the Las Vegas Mayor’s Office, where Carolyn Goodman has called the closure of nonessential businesses and other difficult decisions made by Sisolak “total insanity.” Unfortunately, Goodman is stuck in her Vegas marketing mode, the only tune she knows, and when she took to MSNBC with Katie Tur and CNN with Anderson Cooper this week and attempted to talk about the importance of restarting the casinos and the convention industry, she came off as irresponsible. The last thing Las Vegas needs is some official with a microphone cackling about reopening an international resort destination before it’s safe to do so. But Goodman’s talking points aren’t hard to trace to personal animus with Sisolak and far-right political games being played from Washington to Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s been a little more than a month. But that’s what makes these strange and challenging days for the gaming industry. For perhaps the first time in its history, its relentless promoters need to pipe down and think before they speak. Or, failing that, not speak at all. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.