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March 18, 2020, 10:58 a.m. EDT

Coronavirus forces Las Vegas Strip to shut down for first time since JFK assassination

The Las Vegas Strip will be shut down for the first time since the JFK assassination in 1963

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By Associated Press


John Locher
People watch the fountain show at the Bellagio before it closes.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gambling will grind to a halt by Wednesday in casino-mecca Las Vegas, a city known for glitzy and sometimes reckless fun, as the governor of Nevada issued a sweeping statewide order aimed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Democrat Steve Sisolak ordered a monthlong freeze on gambling, shutting down everything from the famous casino resorts to slot machines found in convenience stores, cutting off an industry that fuels the state’s tourism and hospitality-powered economy.

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Sisolak’s broad directive also includes the monthlong closure of non-essential businesses like bars, movie theaters and gyms at noon Wednesday. Restaurants must to shutter their dining rooms and only offer takeout or delivery.

“This is effecting the lives of our citizens. People are dying. Every day that is delayed here, I’m losing a dozen people on the back end that are going to die as a result of this,” Sisolak said at a news conference Tuesday night.

Sisolak’s order follows similar moves by more than 10 other governors as states scramble to mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The Las Vegas will be shut down for the first time since the JFK assassination in 1963.

Nevada’s governor gave thousands of businesses in the tourism mecca less than a day to prepare. Though a number of casinos started to close their doors this week, the governor’s sweeping order shutters Nevada’s main industry, anchored by glimmering casinos lining the Las Vegas Strip.

The closures are part of federal guidance recommending social distancing. President Donald Trump has urged Americans to follow sweeping guidelines for the next few weeks, including for older residents to stay home and for all people to avoid gatherings of more than 10 as well as restaurants and bars.

Sisolak’s unprecedented order comes after many casinos in Las Vegas moved to shut their doors entirely and the mayor of Las Vegas said she hoped bars and restaurants would be able to stay open.

See also: With NBA games suspended due to the coronavirus, will players and stadium workers still get paid?

“My hope is that private industry rises to the top, that they’re allowed to stay open and take care of these families that are paycheck to paycheck,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The mayor of Reno had issued an order similar to Sisolak a day earlier, telling many of those non-essential businesses to close in that city starting Friday at 5 p.m. Mayor Hillary Schieve initially included casinos but rescinded that, allowing gambling operations to continue.

The last time casinos closed in Las Vegas was for John F. Kennedy’s funeral on Nov. 25, 1963. Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in an email to The Associated Press Tuesday night that to his knowledge, it was the first time all Nevada casinos have been ordered closed statewide. He previously said this week’s intentional casino closures may be only the fourth since gambling was legalized in Las Vegas in 1931.

“The state occasionally revoked a license and ordered one closed, but nothing like this,” he wrote.

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