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Public Health
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

In Closing Casinos Nevada Governor Says The State Won’t Gamble With Public Health

An image of the Las Vegas strip with a storm cloud looming overhead.
Thomas Hawk
/
Flickr
Nevada casinos brought in about $1 billion in both March and April of last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing federal, state and local governments to take drastic measures. And in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak did something never done before: he ordered all casinos in the state to shut down for 30 days.

“I can say this is something incredible, shocking to ponder,” said Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He noted that the only other time the government ordered casinos to close was during World War II.

“The last time we had anything comparable, in terms of a public health threat, would have been the Spanish Influenza in 1918-19,” Green said.

Back then, the population of the Las Vegas area was around 2,600 people, compared to the nearly 2 million people living in the region now.

On Tuesday, an emotional Sisolak said the time to act is now, and that waiting will cost lives.

“At a time when people are getting sick from simply being near others is not the time for gyms to remain open. This is not the time for casinos to remain open. This is not the time for community recreation centers, clubhouses, movie theaters and malls to remain open. If your business brings groups of people together, it should not be open,” he said.

The closures come at a steep financial cost. According to the Nevada Gaming Control Board, casinos brought in about $1 billion in both March and April of last year.

The move follows tribal governments across the country closing casinos to stem the spread of COVID-19.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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