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LAS VEGAS (AP) – For Mike Anger in Midland, Michigan, a round-trip flight of $ 100 and $ 260 for five nights in a Las Vegas hotel made it too easy to say yes.

“How could I refuse this?” asked the 39-year-old electrician, holding a large vodka drink, basking in 90-degree temperatures and soaking up the attractions of street performers and tourists on Friday at a pedestrian mall in the downtown casino .

“I’m having a blast,” said her friend, cosmetologist Jade Topor. “Pretty much what I expected.”

Las Vegas has been almost neck and neck lately with pandemic-tired tourists looking for excitement and entertainment, after casinos went from 35% to 50% occupancy on March 15 as per guidelines state health.

Capacity limits at Las Vegas casinos drop again on Saturday – allowing for 80% occupancy – as person-to-person distance drops from 6 feet (1.8 meters) to 3 feet (0.9 meters). Masks are still needed.

“People just wanted to go somewhere and let go,” said Alan Feldman, a former casino executive who is now a fellow of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

Among the early arrivals were people aged 60 and over who were recently vaccinated with time and disposable income, he observed.

Analysts said pent-up demand, available hotel rooms and the federal government’s $ 1,400 pandemic recovery checks contributed to the rush.

“People are feeling more comfortable traveling because science seems to be getting ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeremy Aguero, senior analyst at Applied Analysis in Las Vegas.

“Late spring and early summer tend to be peak months for traditional national pleasure travel,” Aguero said.

Economic markers are now ringing a revival in the resort hallway that was ghostly a year ago.

Gains at state casinos in March exceeded $ 1 billion, the best monthly mark in eight years. Half of those gains were harvested on the Las Vegas Strip, state regulators said.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which has just launched a new advertising campaign to promote freedom and a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, had more than 2.2 million visitors in March.

The figure was down 40% from March 2019, but a huge jump from a year earlier, when casinos closed from mid-March to early June. This drove Nevada’s unemployment rate in April 2020 above 30% – the highest on record in any state. The state now reports the rate to 8.1%.

Every Sunday, another weekly demand metric arrives: a nearly 20-mile line of vehicles blocking the southbound Interstate 15 near the Nevada-California state line. The lanes are going from three in Nevada to two in California.

“You have visitors coming throughout the week, all leaving at the same time,” said Travis Smaka, the Nevada Highway Patrol Soldier. “It’s very busy every Sunday.”

Carlo Santarelli, game analyst at Deutsche Bank Securities, said the boom “really accelerated in March, driven by increased vaccinations, spring break and March Madness,” the championship tournaments. basketball court.

“It’s pool season, the weather is better,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, senior spokesperson for the Convention and Visitors Authority. “It’s still cold in the Midwest and Northeast.”

Restaurants can now reach 80% occupancy, accept drop-in dinners and tables of 12. Buffets can allow self-service supervised by employees.

Casino day clubs and nightclubs may open, but designated dance areas remain closed until a specified community vaccination rate is reached.

Clark County plans to allow 100% occupancy of casinos and businesses once 60% of its 1.8 million eligible residents receive a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Friday, 45% of people aged 16 and over in the county had received at least one vaccine, according to the State Department of Health and Human Services, and nearly 33% were fully immunized.

But inoculation rates have slowed, prompting Governor Steve Sisolak to visit a shooting clinic of an MGM Resorts International employee at the Mandalay Bay complex and a church in eastern Las Vegas on Thursday. , very Hispanic, Friday.

“The comeback is here now,” he said.

The Democratic governor has set a June 1 target for lifting almost all coronavirus mitigation restrictions statewide. Mask warrants will remain in place indefinitely.

This will allow the convention authority to host its biggest event since March 2020 – the World of Concrete show starting June 8 – and kick off its nearly $ 1 billion expansion at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

It will also showcase a new $ 52.5 million Tesla vehicle underground people transfer system drilled under the convention center by Elon Musk.

Show attendees, exhibitors and staff will be required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and observe social distancing, Nelson-Kraft said, at least until Clark County changes response rules to the pandemic.

“We are not, and I have not heard from any of our show producers, that they require proof of vaccination,” she added.

More than three-quarters of the coronavirus cases and deaths diagnosed in Nevada have been in the Las Vegas area, where nearly three-quarters of the state’s population live.

State health officials say 4,300 people have died from COVID-19 in Clark County and 243,942 cases have been reported. Statewide, there have been 5,464 deaths and 315,000 reported cases.

The county’s 14-day test positivity rate on Friday was 5.6% – above the World Health Organization’s target of 5% or less to ease restrictions.

Still, March turned out to be a good time to open Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and its Mohegan Sun Casino. They debuted five weeks ago after $ 200 million and over a year of renovations to the old Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“Last week the best way to describe it is like a light switch,” Richard “Boz” Bosworth, president and CEO of JC Hospitality, the owner said Friday. “You could just feel the energy rebuilding itself.”

“What we are all looking forward to is June 1,” he added.

At least 50 resident shows have picked up, including mainstays such as David Copperfield, Fantasy Review, Carrot Top, Penn & Teller, and The Laugh Factory. But not all actions in all places go forward.

Events attracting more than 20,000 people may reopen after a case-by-case review of safety plans by the Southern Nevada Health District.

The Electric Daisy Carnival disappointed ticket buyers by postponing its multi-day event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from May to October.

But a July 10 MMA fight starring Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier quickly sold over 20,000 seats at T-Mobile Arena. The site has hosted NHL Golden Knights games in Vegas with a limited audience.

Recently announced big names include Bruno Mars on July 3 at Park MGM and Usher scheduled for August at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.

Cirque du Soleil is resuming the first of its major acrobatic productions, “Mystère”, on June 28, and its aquatic-themed “O” at the Bellagio on July 1.

Yet gambling is what attracts many Las Vegas fans. And lately, slot machine jackpots have taken on a breakneck pace.

Alaskan tourist won over $ 2.1 million last weekend; a visitor from New Mexico won a payment of $ 10.5 million in Megabucks on Tuesday; a man won $ 2.9 million Wednesday on a Wheel of Fortune machine; and someone won $ 1.2 million early Friday at a downtown casino. None of the winners have been publicly identified.

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