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Back to Sin City

A cautious return to Las Vegas to avoid the you-know-what.

Back to Sin City

This month will mark my first extended casino-hotel stay since February, a month which, as we all know, occurred in the former universe.

Here in this parallel universe, I will now have to mask up, grab my clean-hand juice, and confront my fears to do my normal summer task, which is visiting all the slot manufacturers to view all the games they have on tap for 2021—when, hopefully, we’ll all be in yet another parallel universe.

One that doesn’t, you know, suck.

Mostly, I’ll be meeting with all my slot-making buddies in Las Vegas for a week, about which I have no fear. The in-person meetings I’ve had so far since the industry began to de-thaw have been perfectly safe, mask-equipped interviews in business offices that are as protected as any indoor space against the spread of the you-know-what.

They’re sure safer than Walmart, I’ll tell you that.

What sends chills up my spine is the prospect of traveling in a total of four pressurized sardine cans to complete the trip. It’s four, because I had to pick an airline that’s still blocking off seats to permit social distancing, so I have to do connecting flights.

The airline that I normally use is again packing as many humans as possible into a tin can to breath each other’s vapors for five hours. I won’t identify it, but it’s the only airline with direct flights between Philadelphia and Las Vegas that is named American Airlines.

I know, I know. The jury’s still out on just how effective against the you-know-what leaving space between passengers is. All the same, I’m guessing it’s safer not to have a large man three inches away snoring in your face during a flight.

I’m a little less apprehensive about the place I’m staying, which is the place I always stay, miles away from the petri-dish Strip at the South Point on South Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s going to be different, for sure. My favorite restaurants are closed, and I’m still a bit leery about indoor dining in any event. I’ll probably do a lot of take-out from the burger joint, outside pizza delivery and room service, to be honest.

Well, and Mexican food, if they open up Baja Miguel’s.

I called the slot director at the South Point, Cliff Paige, to get the down-low on what it’s been like there since they reopened with safety guidelines in place. He said everything’s been going super-smooth, with all areas of the casino constantly cleaned and sanitized, and “hyper-critical” areas such as food and hotel rooms deemed “mission critical.”

Cliff tells me the food outlets are the cleanest spaces in the casino, which is good, because I can’t survive a casino stay without the coffee shop.

I’ll be able to play my favorite games in the casino as well, he assured me. Even though every other machine is disabled for social distancing, they have so many Game King units with 8/5 Bonus Poker there that there will be no problem finding an open machine.

I just hope one of them is my lucky machine. It’s across from the blackjack pit, and I’ve hit seven or eight royals on it over the years.

Not that I’m superstitious or anything.

Cliff also surprised me that my other favorite game, craps, will still be available at minimums as low as $5. There will be half the positions available as normal—again with the social distancing—but then again, there are only half the people in the hotel as in that old, pre-you-know-what universe.

It’s a testament to South Point owner Michael Gaughan that $5 tables are still open to play, with only half the positions active. He can’t be making money on those tables, but he’s in the business of keeping long-term customers, and he knows how to do it.

Of course, in the old days (as in, February), I would save time by eating at the buffet once or twice during the week. Those days are for-sure gone. Heaps of community food and sneeze guards are definitely out of vogue at this point. But I’m told the sports bar by the sportsbook is open with safety precautions, and when I stay there, real American professional sports will actually be playing. So at the very least, I’ll have video poker, baseball, hockey and liquor.

Yeah, I’ll be just fine.

In the end, my only real concern is the flying. But I’ve got a really,

really good mask. It covers my entire head.

Not really, but it’s pretty good. So, tally ho and happy landings!

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.