Las Vegas lockdown plunges an entire city into uncertainty

Las Vegas lockdown plunges an entire city into uncertainty

Towns and cities going into lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus is a phenomenon with which we are already becoming familiar. It’s necessitating changes to the way we live our lives, as non-essential businesses are told to close. For most destinations, that means quieter streets and fewer shops open, resulting in the social distancing rules actually being quite easy to follow.

In Nevada’s most populous city, however, it is a different story. Las Vegas features on most bucket lists, and rightly so. There is nowhere quite like it on earth, and it’s somewhere everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Yet with hand on heart, we would all have to agree that the casinos and leisure complexes that line The Strip cannot be described as essential businesses.

The gaming capital of the world

Ironically, the gaming industry as a whole is likely to see record turnover this quarter. By late March, a quarter of the world’s population was staying at home, and online gaming, whether of a gambling nature or in other genres, have never been in greater demand. Those Vegas-based businesses that also offer gamers the chance to play their favourite games in cyberspace will be in a strong position to weather the storm, perhaps even more so than in the financial crisis that kicked off in 2008.

Back then, gaming was off the menu for millions as they were forced to cut back on non-essential spending. Today, the will is still there, but the physical constraints of social distancing rules have made Las Vegas a no-go zone. Yet while the businesses might come through relatively unscathed, the lockdown is likely to have serious consequences for the individuals who live and work on The Strip.

Vegas Strong

Unite Here is a US labour union that represents 300,000 people working in the hospitality and leisure sector.     It estimates that more than 80 percent of its members could end up losing their jobs as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. The specific impact on Las Vegas, where the entire city’s economy is based on exactly that sector, is almost too grim to contemplate. Yet this is also a city built on a sense of resilience.

Most of those who live and work in Vegas arrived with dreams, but also with the knowledge that life in this city of casinos is a gamble in itself. There are no guarantees, and those who have taken the plunge have something of a frontier mentality.

This is exemplified in the Vegas Strong motif that first appeared in the wake of the 2017 shootings. The hashtag has re-emerged in recent weeks as the community comes together to face this new challenge.

Lessons for us all

It’s in times of adversity that you really learn about people, and perhaps we can say the same about cities and communities. It’s easy to dismiss Las Vegas as all bright lights, big noise and tourist money pits. However, this is a community just like any other, but one that is being affected harder than most by current circumstances.

It’s just another reason, as if we needed one, to keep Sin City at the top of that bucket list. Let’s look to the future and be ready to give the city our support as soon as life returns to normal.