LAS VEGAS – Caesar is sporting a gold mask at the entrance to his namesake casino.
There's a giant hand-washing station on the casino floor at the luxe Bellagio.
Dancing dealers at the D Las Vegas wear face shields.
Bill Hornbuckle, acting CEO of casino giant MGM Resorts, owner of New York-New York, Bellagio and other Vegas properties, said he will consider reopening week a success if visitors "go home and say, 'While it was different, it was safe, it was fun, and it's still the Vegas I know.' "
Here's a look at what's changed and what hasn't:
7 things that have changed – for now, at least
1. Gambling: In the casino equivalent of blocking middle seats on a plane, you'll find fewer chairs at the blackjack, roulette and poker tables and fewer places to stand around the craps table. The new limits per table: three players at blackjack, four at roulette and poker and six at craps. Dealers and other employees are required to wear masks or face shields, per gaming authority reopening regulations. Masks are mostly optional but strongly encouraged for guests. MGM Resorts has gone so far as to install plexiglass partitions at its tables, and, in some cases, bar-top video poker machines. Caesars requires that gamblers wear masks at table games. Every other slot machine is generally turned off and lacks a chair in the name of social distancing. Casino capacity is initially limited to 50% under new state gaming regulations. There are signs everywhere reminding people about safety protocols, and MGM has new hand-cleaning stations at Bellagio and New York-New York.
Las Vegas Strip reopening scenes: Foot traffic light, but Bellagio fountains dancing
2. Hotel check-in: You'll have your temperature checked before you get in line under reopening requirements imposed by gaming authorities. Hotels use a variety of methods, including contactless and infrared thermometers. New York-New York has EMTs stationed at the check-in line. At Caesars Palace, you walk through a machine resembling a metal detector that captures your temperature from three different positions.
What happens if you have a fever? You'll be given time to cool down before being tested again. Those with a fever will be evaluated by a medical professional and may not be able to check in.
The D Las Vegas on Fremont Street downtown checked all visitors' temperaturesduring reopening week, but hotel owner Derek Stevens said he wasn't sure how long that would continue. I had my temperature taken seven times during a one-night stay as I went in and out of the place when it reopened Wednesday.
3. Hotel choices: Your favorite hotel might not be open. Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, which operate the most casino-hotels on the Strip, each has only a few of its hotels open as they slowly ramp up their businesses after the 2½-month shutdown. Caesars reopened Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Harrah's. It has not announced reopening dates for its other casino hotels, which include Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Bally's and the Linq. MGM Resorts debuted with Bellagio, New York-New York and MGM Grand, though only at 30% to 35% capacity for hotel guests and plans to reopen Excalibur on Thursday. Still closed: Aria, the Mirage, Park MGM, Mandalay Bay, Luxor and others. Hotels are taking a similar phased approach with their restaurants, and many are still closed.
4. Buffets: The all-you-can eat extravaganzas, a Vegas staple, have not reopened, and it's unclear what they will be like when they do. Buffets are so popular Caesars Entertainment created a buffet pass a decade ago that allows visitors to pay one price and visit several in one stay. The coronavirus crisis has already claimed the buffet restaurants Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes.
5. Things to do: Hotel pools are open to reduced capacity, and a few attractions, including the High Roller observation wheel, Bellagio fountains and New York-New York roller coaster, have resumed. Las Vegas' marquee attractions, including its signature shows, night clubs and raucous adult-only pool parties, have not as gathering in groups is still prohibited.
6. Parking fees: Free hotel parking, a hallmark of Las Vegas until 2016 when MGM Resorts started a trend by adding fees for valet and self-parking, is back. Caesars trumpets free parking on electronic billboards on the Strip, and MGM touts its new policy, too. (A few hotels, including Cosmopolitan Las Vegas and Wynn and Encore, eliminated parking fees before the crisis to stand out from the competition.)
The policy, one of many steps designed to woo people back to Vegas, applies only to self-parking because valet parking is not offered. Before the crisis, self-parking was as high as $18 and valet parking was $30 a night at high-end hotels such as Bellagio.
The free parking lured Las Vegas teacher Colleen Vosicky back to the Strip on Thursday to watch the Bellagio fountain show and visit the hotel's Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. They are two of her favorite things about Las Vegas, but she stopped going when parking fees became the norm.
The big question: How long will free parking last?
MGM is noncommittal on its website.
"We're implementing free self-parking now as a way to welcome back guests," it says. "We don’t have a timeline regarding future plans or changes."
7. Las Vegas' sales pitch: Las Vegas tweaked its seductive, oft-repeated "What happens here, stays here" marketing slogan in January before the coronavirus crisis began. The new slogan: "What happens here, only happens here."
The shutdown shelved that campaign, and tourism authorities introduced a toned-down glimpse of Vegas in a new TV spot welcoming visitors back.
Vegas being Vegas, all the pitches aren't squeaky clean.
"Think dirty thoughts, but keep your hands clean," screams one electronic message on the Strip.
4 things coronavirus hasn't changed about Las Vegas
1. Resort fees: The pesky surcharges, which can top $45 or $50 a night with tax at Bellagio and Caesars Palace, remain. The resort fee nearly doubled the price of my bargain $30 room at the D Las Vegas downtown when it reopened Wednesday. The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas even plans to raise its resort fee, from $44.22 to $51.02, in January. One notable exception: the Sahara Las Vegas, formerly the SLS, is waiving its $37.95 resort fee for reservations booked in June for stays through May 2021.
2. Free drinks and frivolity abound: The cocktail servers wear masks, but free drinks still reign on most casino floors 24 hours a day. Heading out for a morning walk? You'll still see someone swilling a beer or bloody mary at a slot machine at 6 a.m. Las Vegas is still a round-the-clock playground where people go to escape. The opening week crowds have been light, the Strip still largely deserted, but there were signs of the typical Vegas as the weekend approached. Visitors from Southern California lugged coolers of booze from their cars to their rooms, and a bachelorette wearing a veil and sash toted a giant souvenir glass filled with one of those frozen slushy drinks sold everywhere.
3. Smoking: Casinos remain one of the few public places you can still light up inside, and coronavirus hasn't changed that. How can you smoke with a mask on, you ask? Masks are only encouraged, not mandatory, in Las Vegas casinos, and many visitors went without during reopening week. An employee handing out masks with a tong at one entrance to Caesars Palace estimated that 80% of visitors weren't wearing masks during reopening weekend.
4. Hefty ATM fees: Need cash to gamble? Las Vegas casino ATMs still charge $7.99 or $8.99 to withdraw your money.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Las Vegas open for business: 11 things returning visitors need to know