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May 6, 2021

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Las Vegas might not see normal until 2022, longtime casino owner says

Budweiser's Clydesdale Meets South Point Owner Michael Gaughan

Wade Vandervort

South Point owner, Michael Gaughan, poses for a photo with Budweisers official Clydesdale, Red, during an event to kick off NASCAR race weekend, at the South Point 400 Bar, Thursday, Sep. 13, 2018.

Las Vegas casino owner Michael Gaughan said he hopes the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is over by the spring, but Las Vegas might not fully recover until 2022.

“I’ve been here since 1952 and this is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to (Las Vegas),” said Gaughan, who owns the South Point. “I don’t think it can get any worse. Hopefully, by the end of March or April, this will be over.”

Casinos were ordered shuttered in mid-March to help curb the spread of the virus, and the state didn’t allow them to start reopening until June 4.

Most Las Vegas casinos are now open, albeit with reduced hotel occupancies and fewer amenities such as nightclubs, shows and buffets.

A handful of resorts remain closed, and the Encore announced this week that it was ceasing midweek operations because of weak customer demand.

“Strip hotels will have their work cut out for them,” Gaughan said. “I do think that by the start of 2022, we should be back to completely normal. I just hope Las Vegas can get back to where it was. Everybody is trying to survive and keep as many working as they can.”

Gaughan made his comments at a ribbon-cutting event for a new 40,000-square-foot equestrian arena at his resort south of the Strip.

As Gaughan spoke, the American Paint Horse Association was conducting part of its national championship show at the adjacent South Point Arena, though the five-day event is not open to the public because of the pandemic.

It’s just one example of events in Las Vegas that have been canceled, postponed or closed to spectators.

The city has lost everything from concerts to conventions to festivals. The Las Vegas Raiders are playing their inaugural season without fans at Allegiant Stadium.

Gaughan, 77, said the South Point is navigating the tricky economic times. About 1,800 employees are back on the job, about 400 fewer than pre-pandemic level, he said.

“We do a lot of business in the local market, and the people here have been taking care of me,” Gaughan said. “We’re not making a whole lot of money, but we’re not losing any.”