At 11:59 PM last night I was standing in a line of about 100 people outside Red Rock Casino. It was out of sheer curiosity, wondering what casinos would look like under the new normal in the post-pandemic world.
Like everyone, I’ve seen the pictures and videos of giant glass shields covering the tables and I’ve heard the horror stories of potential hygiene-related rules that will be put in place. I was ready for the worst.
I’ve been to grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, restaurants, retail shops, and pretty much every other place I’d normally visit in my daily life and the changes are noticeable. So I expected the casino, a place that’s essentially built on people touching common objects, to be completely unnoticeable to what I remembered before they were forced to shut down 79 days ago.
Midnight hit and the line started moving towards the door. In eight minutes, I found myself standing about 10 feet away from a machine that took my temperature. Two seconds later, I was cleared to enter, as was every other person in the line, and free to walk about the casino.
Every machine was on; chairs at every other one. Same at the bar, which was already full of people ordering drinks and tapping the machines in front of them. Table games were open, with fewer chairs, but running the same way they always were with people touching cards, chips, and dice. Despite a lack of live programming on the TV’s, even the sportsbook was open and seemingly operating as usual.
It was shockingly normal.
Which got me thinking about hockey.
It felt like overnight we went from ordinary life to shutting down every possible avenue people had to have fun. At my local park, they locked the doors to the pool, took down the nets on the tennis courts, and even ripped the hoops off the backboards of the basketball court.
Not only had professional sports in pretty much every country halted, but it wasn’t even okay for anyone to play sports on their own for a while there. Don’t throw the football, don’t kick the soccer ball, and don’t you even dare think about getting on the ice.
Sports were under siege. Actually, no, sports were successfully snuffed out and it all happened in about a week.
They told us it was paused, but in the back of everyone’s mind was the same thought. “Whenever sports do resume, will they ever look the same?”
Casinos were equally snuffed out. With sports, they are both massive businesses that generate absurd amounts of money, but unlike “essential businesses” the world can live without them.
We just don’t want to.
Strolling around the casino gave me hope. There were new restrictions and policies in place, but the casino felt very much like what it did before. If the casinos can return, maybe sports are right around the corner. And not sports on TV in closed arenas. Sports with 17,500 people screaming when a goofy knight pulls a sword out of a stone.
Seeing the return of casinos gave me hope that this was a fleeting moment in time and that time has passed. That the precautions which were put in place either worked perfectly or were a massive overreaction.
My hope is that in the near future we’ll all be able to walk into T-Mobile Arena and feel the way I did entering Red Rock last night. I felt like casinos had returned and it gave me my first real sense of belief that the city I love will return too.
The next piece of the puzzle is sports, specifically hockey. Hopefully, that return is just as triumphant.