Disinfected dice: Las Vegas casinos getting ready to roll

LAS VEGAS — Free parking, but no valet service. Bartenders, blackjack dealers and waiters wearing masks. Hand sanitizer everywhere.

Yes, dice will roll, cards will be dealt and slot machines will beckon. But poker rooms? Closed.

Tourists returning to Las Vegas will see changes since gambling stopped in mid-March for the first time ever to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The stakes could not be higher, said Robert Lang, executive director of the Brookings Mountain West think tank at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“Las Vegas can never be known as the place where people go and get sick,” he said.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening casinos. The Democratic governor said in a statement Friday that Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19 when some restrictions began to be eased nearly two weeks ago.

Sisolak’s office said he plans to hold a news conference on Tuesday to offer more details about the next phase of reopening, assuming those positive trends continue through the Memorial Day weekend. Nevada’s gambling regulators also plan to meet Tuesday and will consider reopening plans submitted from casinos, which need to be approved at least seven days before reopening.

“We all know what we’ve gone through for the last 10 weeks. No one’s having fun,” said Bill Hornbuckle, acting chief executive and president of casino giant MGM Resorts International. “The simple idea that I could get out, come to a resort, lay at a pool, enjoy a nice dinner, sit at a blackjack table. There’s something to be said for all of that.”

Many properties have aimed for an early June restart in the gambling mecca closed almost overnight in the middle of a hot streak — three consecutive $1 billion months in statewide casino winnings. The city had been drawing more than 40 million annual visitors.