Updated March 17, 2020 - 4:35 pm
Guests at MGM Resorts properties and Wynn Las Vegas packed their bags and checked out Tuesday, leaving only employees to see to the final details of the closure of those Strip megaresorts for a month — at least.
Shortly before 4 p.m., most of the Encore and Wynn casino floors were empty but for a few workers, security and a few straggler tourists.
The poker room and blackjack and craps tables were empty.
Bars and restaurants were dark, with most slot machines turned off and flashing “attendant has locked the betting terminal” or “out of service” on their screens.
At least two slot machines were still operating, however, and tourists pressed their luck a final time before the doors were locked.
As a Review-Journal reporter approached a group standing around the machines that were still operating, a security guard approached and escorted the reporter from the property.
The MGM properties began asking people to leave hours earlier. Only guests needing to check out of their rooms by noon and employees were allowed into the resorts in the morning hours. Signs posted on doors alerted would-be visitors: “This property is currently closed. We look forward to welcoming you again.”
At Aria, security was turning away cars destined for the hotel-casino.
Escalators leading to the properties were closed, and workers appeared to be cleaning glass, handles and the floors at the entrances in preparation for the closure.
Birthday plans shut down
Neal Vardaman, of Detroit, was celebrating his birthday and was scheduled to stay at the MGM Grand through Wednesday. He said the closure caught him by surprise.
“I think it’s a little overkill, but that’s my personal opinion,” said Vardaman, who arrived March 10. “I also work in the service industry, and I know these people won’t have a source of income. So I understand why, but I don’t agree.”
Vardaman made accommodations to spend his last night at a nearby resort that he found was open on Google.
He said it was strange to watch the casino portion of the MGM Grand shut down gradually over the tail end of his weeklong stay as the COVID-19 outbreak in Southern Nevada worsened.
“They started closing every other one (slot machine) and have been doing that for two days,” Vardaman said. “I watched it die down. When I got back from the Strip last night, it was like a ghost town.”
Wearing a green St. Patrick’s Day-themed shirt with “I’m feeling lucky” printed on it, Vardaman said he felt anything but.
“This is my birthday weekend trip, that I paid for myself, so this sucks,” he said. “This (shirt) is as far as it’s (St. Patrick’s Day) going to go today. Maybe I’ll have a green beer in my room.”
Notification by voicemail
At Park MGM, Crystal and Issac Rickett and their friends Will and Amanda Smith said they had traveled to Las Vegas from Ohio to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. But after learning the hotel was closing, they booked a flight home.
They said they received a voicemail last night on their phones and otherwise had no other warnings from the property that it would close.
They wanted to store their bags before going to find an open restaurant, but all the lockers at the hotel were closed, with signs citing coronavirus concerns as the reason.
Crystal Rickett said she didn’t think Park MGM management handled the closure well, and she won’t stay there again.
Amanda Smith said she was just struck by the strangeness of it all. “We never thought the city that doesn’t sleep would go to sleep.”
Earlier in the day at Wynn, pop music echoed through the all-but-empty casino floor. The guests were gone, but maintenance staff were on hand to vacuum, mop or tend to the greenery near the deserted reception desk.
Security guards in deep purple blazers stood listlessly near elevators and entrances or walked the floor. One, chatting with a maintenance worker, remarked that he hadn’t seen the Strip this empty since 9/11.
Some slot machines were deactivated and the chairs removed to keep gamblers six feet apart, but there were only a handful of players left. Of all the tables strewn across the casino floor, a single dealer remained, playing blackjack with one man.
Stefan Lebedev left just before the noon checkout deadline with his wife and 6-year-old son.
Lebedev said they were planning to find another hotel for their last night and would likely spend the day inside before flying back to Minneapolis on Wednesday.
“This came out of nowhere, or it only feels like it came out of nowhere,” he said. “At first we weren’t worried but then it seems like it just blew up.”
“Yeah, I’d say this was a wake up call.”
In shops at the Plaza, employees sat behind locked glass doors and packed away merchandise in plastic bags or chatted around sales counters.
The massive technicolor Jeff Koons tulip sculpture at the Plaza shops was covered in a beige canvas tarp. A single security guard kept watch over it, eyeing the one or two passersby who walked in to ogle the shuttered shops.
Contact Mick Akers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter. Contact Max Michor at email@example.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter. Contact David Ferrara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter. Contact Alex Chhith at email@example.com or 702-383-0290. Follow @alexchhith on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Glenn Puit contributed to this report.