Vegas unemployment claims surge as pandemic forces casino hotels, restaurants and shows to close

LAS VEGAS, NV — The bright lights and vibrant sounds of the entertainment capital of the world are gone for now.

Casinos have been boarded up and barricaded. Neon signs that used to flash the latest shows have been replaced with somber messages of safety.

Las Vegas was the place to be for tourists. But its streets are now deserted.

In March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began, about 1.5 million people visited the Sin City, but in the same month last year, Las Vegas had three times more tourists — according to the Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Since casinos, hotels, shows and restaurants were closed in mid-March amid the pandemic, workers filing unemployment benefits have also reached record numbers.

More than 440,000 claims have been filed so far this year in the Silver State.

A local casino in North Las Vegas was Lily Cano’s place of work for 20 years. But that has come to an end.

“At first, I got a letter saying the casino has been temporarily closed so I thought there was still hope. But later on, they asked us to return our uniforms. So maybe, that’s it.”

Even at the age of 75, Cano, a buffer work, is the sole breadwinner in her family who supports her sick husband. Her only source of income was the casino that laid her off.

“For me, it’s harder because of my age. I might not be hired again. That’s the one thing.”

Despite her challenges, Cano believes the shelter-in-place order amid the pandemic was absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe.

Meanwhile on the strip, casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. reported a 51% drop in revenue.

On Wednesday, sands posted $1.78 billion in net revenue for three months, down from $3.6 billion a year earlier.

According the American Gaming Association, the economy stands to lose $43.5 billion if close to 1,000 commercial and tribal casino properties remain closed until mid-May.

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