Sin City hung out the ‘Open’ sign at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday and revelers wasted no time packing the Strip, with Las Vegas running at 100 percent capacity for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdowns began.
There were also big crowds in the city over Memorial Day Weekend, a sort of test run as the city prepared to ease COVID-19 restrictions – with people pictured over the weekend with masks and then, as midnight arrived on Tuesday, most people pictured unmasked.
The city cited increasing vaccination rates, a low rate of COVID-19 positivity, and normalized hospitalization rates in Clark County – the home of Las Vegas – as reasons for the expiration of the pandemic mitigation plan, which had locked down casinos and tanked their business for much of last year.
So far this year, the city has been opening up more and more – with Tuesday marking the first time it threw open its doors to 100 percent. They had been running at 50 percent since March 15.
Businesses and restaurants are now able to open in the city at full capacity with no restrictions if they choose. People who are not vaccinated are still asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Masks are also still necessary on public transportation.
Scroll down for video
Downtown Las Vegas was hopping June 1 as crowds gathered to watch a local concert after the state dropped most COVID-19 restrictions and said casinos could operate at 100 percent capacity
A crowd watches musical act Zowie Bowie in concert during a ‘Downtown Rocks Again!’ event at the Fremont Street Experience on June 1, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada
The Fremont Street Experience led the way on opening night, hosting a ‘Downtown Rocks Again’ event
Entertainer Chris Phillips of musical act Zowie Bowie performs during a ‘Downtown Rocks Again!’ event
But people wasted no time in trying to adjust back to the old normal in the city, with crowds cheering as the clock struck 12:01am on early Tuesday morning, marking the end of the restrictions.
‘This is rather a historic night in Las Vegas history,’ an announcer said to a crowd of revelers, according to CNN, as the dawn of a new era arrived.
The Fremont Street Experience led the way on opening night, hosting a ‘Downtown Rocks Again’ event, according to NewsNation Now.
Three musical stages were set up and local bands Zowie Bowie and Spandex Nation performed to a crowd with limited masks in sight.
‘You just have to see it in order to believe it,’ said tourist Diana Rollins. ‘It’s just so much fun to see all these people doing their thing.’
Additionally, a recorded message from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman was played for the crowd.
Visitors walk by the Four Queens Hotel & Casino and the Fremont Hotel & Casino under the Viva Vision canopy attraction at the Fremont Street Experience on May 31, just before restrictions in the city were officially dropped
Visitors walk by a gift store at the Fremont Street Experience on June 1. People who are vaccinated don’t have to wear masks in the city any longer, with few exceptions
Visitors are silhouetted as they watch The Fountains of Bellagio on May 31 in Las Vegas, Nevada
‘It’s great. It’s an American summer, following the pandemic, everyone deserves to go out,’ visitor David Charles told NewsNation Now.
Later on, casino employees could be seen taking down plexiglass dividers that separated patrons at slot machines and gambling spots.
Casinos were previously allowed to fully reopen if 80 percent of the staff was vaccinated, but that restriction has been dropped.
People flock to the pool at Circa Resort and Casino on Memorial Day in Las Vegas, Nevada
Businesses and hotels will no longer have to restrict capacity going forward in Las Vegas
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is set to host tens of thousands of people for a major trade show next week, the first in the United States in over a year.
The full reopening of casinos is massive for Las Vegas, which struggled to turn a profit in the gambling sector through the first year of the pandemic.
The American Gaming Association’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker listed revenue at $30 billion, the first market contraction since 2014 and the lowest revenue since 2003, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
‘COVID-19 devastated our business and the employees and communities across the country that rely on casino gaming’s success,’ AGA President and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement.
‘Hospitality and travel have been among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic,’ Miller said. ‘These numbers show the economic realities of COVID-19 and underscore the importance of targeted federal relief and ramped-up vaccine distribution.’
In Nevada, there were 124 new cases COVID-19 cases on Monday, with a 14-day rolling positive average of 3.8 percent in state. The color codes show the number of cases per 100,000 people over the last 30 days
People make their way up and down the Strip on Memorial Day in Las Vegas, Nevada. Masks were still required on May 31, but at the stroke of midnight on June 1, they no longer were
Things began turning around in the spring when Nevada posted its best month in eight years in March 2021, when it raked in more than $1 billion for the first time since the pandemic began – a 73 percent increase in revenue from the same time last year, according to a report from the State Gaming Control Board.
Those on the Las Vegas Strip accounted for half of the state’s house winnings, taking in $501.45 million for a 67 percent bump.
Sports pools and win volumes were at their highest levels in the state in March, when sports pools won $39.3 million, up $37.9 million from last year, or about 2,605 percent.
The amount wagered in sports pools in Nevada was $640.7 million in March, up 499.7 million, or 354 percent.
Statewide slot winnings totaled $772 million and slot machine volume was the highest it has been since July 2008.
Nevada sports books, meanwhile, handled nearly $641 million in March alone, and won $39.3 million, second only to New Jersey where sports pools handled $859 million and won $60.7 million.
Experts say the return of the NCAA ‘March Madness’ basketball tournament, which was cancelled last year, as well as fresh injections of individual stimulus cash all played a role in driving huge business for casinos.
There have been 324,262 cases of COVID-19 in Nevada so far, with the average amount of cases at 3.8 percent over 14 days
There have been 251,460 cases of COVID-19 in Clark County, with the average amount of cases at 3.8 percent over 14 days
Nevada casinos reopened last June, but had seen sluggish uptake amid pandemic fears and capacity restrictions.
Casinos had operated at a limited capacity of 25% from November until February 15, when they were allowed to open with 35% capacity, Travel + Leisure reported.
Tourism also began a slow rebound in the spring. In April, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that it tallied more than 2.2 million visitors in March.
The tourism figure was down 40 percent compared with the same month two years ago, but up from the 1.5 million tourists the authority tallied in the first half of March 2020, before casinos and other businesses were closed to prevent people from gathering and spreading COVID-19.
McCarran International Airport said it handled nearly 2.6 million passengers in March, up 961,000 from about 1.6 million arriving and departing passengers in February.
While restrictions weren’t eased by Memorial Day, many still packed pools and venues in the city on Monday as the city sit to drop their COVID-19 restrictions.
‘This is the first time it’s opening after COVID-19 and we are all excited. Las Vegas is awesome! It’s lots of fun and we are enjoying the long weekend,’ Mira from Chicago told KTNV.
In the beginning of the pandemic, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman gave an interview with CNN where she seemingly opposed all of the restrictions that came to be.
Goodman, an independent, had been a fierce critic of Nevada’s stay-at-home order, branding it ‘total insanity’ as she fought to reopen her city.
CNN host Anderson Cooper grilled her about her stance in April, asking how she planned to ensure that people continue social distancing in crowded casinos and restaurants.
The mayor responded by insisting that it isn’t her job to implement social distancing guidelines.
‘I am not a private owner. That’s the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public,’ Goodman said.
‘Right now, we’re in a crisis health-wise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job.’
She later added: ‘I’d love everything open because I think we’ve had viruses for years that have been here.’
Goodman actually reflected on the infamous interview recently, claiming that Cooper owed her an apology just a few weeks ago.
‘I’m waiting for his apology,’ Goodman said to KSNV.
Clark County wasn’t set to reopen until it hit a 60 percent vaccination rate, but with reopenings taking place across the country, county commissioners voted to take the plunge ahead of schedule.
In Clark County – where Las Vegas is located – the case and vaccination numbers look very similar to the entire state
The reopening of Las Vegas comes weeks after the CDC began easing mask mandates nationwide, which has led some major cities like New York City to follow suit.
In Nevada, there were 124 new cases COVID-19 cases on Monday, with a 14-day rolling positive average of 3.8 percent in the state.
There have been 324,252 total cases in Nevada, with 5,590 deaths, including two on Monday.
So far, 48.41 percent of the population ages 12 and up – who are eligible for a vaccination – have started the vaccine series, while 39.51 percent of that population has been vaccinated completely.
In Clark County – where Las Vegas is located – the case and vaccination numbers look very similar to the entire state.
There were 93 new cases COVID-19 cases on Monday, with a 14-day rolling positive average of 3.8 percent in the county.
There have been 251,460 total cases in Clark County, with 4,410 deaths, including two on Monday.
So far, 47.98 percent of the population ages 12 and up have started the vaccine series, while 38.09 percent of that population has been vaccinated completely.