The casinos that light up the Las Vegas Strip are shutting down for at least 30 days, a surreal moment in history for America's iconic gambling epicenter.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday ordered the state's nonessential businesses, including casinos, bars and restaurants, to close for 30 days in an effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the sports world to a standstill and is hitting the gaming industry hard.
Sisolak ordered all gaming devices, including slot machines and table games, turned off by midnight Tuesday. Casinos must close by noon Wednesday.
"My ultimate goal here is to come to gather as Nevadans to save lives," Sisolak said. "That requires aggressive strategies aimed at mitigating community spread [of the coronavirus]. Medical professionals have made it abundantly clear that there is no treatment. While a vaccine is being developed, we don't have time to waste. At this time, we must act aggressively and decisively to protect ourselves, our families and our community."
MGM Resorts, the Wynn, Venetian and Cosmopolitan are among the casinos that already had announced temporary closures, prior to Sisolak's order. Now, the rest of Sin City's gaming establishments -- including prominent casinos such as Caesars Palace -- are being asked to comply with the governor's order.
States around the nation have closed gaming establishments, including casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Sportsbooks in many of the states that have recently legalized sports betting are operating online only.
"This is not the time for casinos to remain open," Sisolak said. "If your business brings groups of people together, it should not be open."
Caesars Entertainment announced Tuesday it is temporarily shutting down all its properties in North America.
A spokesperson for Nevada Gaming Control told ESPN that mobile betting would still be available during the closure, but almost all major sports leagues have suspended play, leaving only a few obscure live events on oddsboards.
Normally in mid-March, Las Vegas would be preparing for one of its busiest weeks, as basketball fans pack hotels and sportsbooks for the NCAA tournament. These are not normal times.
Last week, the NCAA canceled the men's and women's college basketball tournaments. The NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer have suspended their seasons, and Major League Baseball has postponed the start of its regular season indefinitely. The PGA Tour and NASCAR, along with many international sports organizations, also have halted play.
Dr. David Schwartz, a professor and gambling historian for UNLV, told ESPN that individual casinos have closed in the past due to regulatory or financial reasons, but he didn't believe there had ever been a widespread closure of the state's gaming industry.
"Did you ever think you'd see so many major casinos literally closing in Las Vegas?" Joe Asher, CEO of prominent sportsbook operator William Hill US, told ESPN. "It's unprecedented. Hopefully, we get to brighter days sooner rather than later."