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Las Vegas will lead post COVID-19 live entertainment recovery: former MGM CEO

Adam Shapiro
·3 min read

Live entertainment and tourists are slowly returning to Las Vegas despite spikes in coronavirus infections nationwide.

“The headline is that Las Vegas will lead the way in terms of live entertainment and hospitality,” former MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren told Yahoo Finance Live. “We have no choice without live entertainment, without conventions, Las Vegas is just another hotel town.”

Murren resigned from MGM Resorts in February to chair the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force. It has been key to reopening Las Vegas. “My task force built a large testing capacity here in Las Vegas. We can test 15,000 to 20,000 people a day, just here alone, which was 200 a day when we started.”

Betting on the future

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said 42 million people visited in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic caused the tourist trade to go bust. Just 14.4 million had visited in 2020 by the end of September.

But last week Mecum Auctions returned to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first live event there in seven months and Mecum has another auction scheduled in January.

Tourists can also purchase tickets for live shows like David Copperfield at the MGM Grand. MGM has instituted what it calls a Seven Point Safety Plan to protect guests at its resorts. It includes health screenings, temperature checks, social distancing and wearing masks.

"We need people to come to Vegas,” said Cara Clarke the vice president of communications for the Las Vegas Chamber. “We want them to feel safe when they’re here. Our resort partners have really been leaders in the world in making their properties safe and looking out for the best interests of both their guests and their employees."

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reported as of November 9, Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, had a coronavirus positivity rate of 11.1% despite the precautions.

The show must go on

Murren said, “People have a fundamental need to be entertained, they want to be with other people in entertainment, in conventions, and that will come back.”

2017 Billboard Music Awards – Show - Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., 21/05/2017 - Cher performs "Believe". REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
2017 Billboard Music Awards – Show - Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., 21/05/2017 - Cher performs "Believe". REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

It’s why he recently launched the special purpose acquisition company Acies Acquisition Corp. (ACACU) and raised $200 million. Murren and his team are, “focused on a handful of situations in digital entertainment, both social casual gaming, as well as in the esports, sports AI gaming field, as well as live entertainment.” Murren expects to close on an acquisition in the next six to 24 months.

Murren predicts spectators will consume live entertainment more responsibly and with more protections in place after the pandemic subsides.

“I think we're not going to see a robust recovery until 2022,” he said. “But I think you're going to start seeing folks being able to go to fights, concerts, theatrical events, and conventions as early as in the coming months.”

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance Live 3pm to 5pm.

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