Las Vegas is betting on the return of gamblers and tourists. Are lost jobs coming back?

LAS VEGAS – He was wearing a silk shirt and smelled of eau de cologne. He liked to talk. There was always someone to talk to, like the Los Angeles production assistant who was gambling away $ 1,200 on video poker. They all took their stories to the Rio Hotel’s 12-meter-high marble bar and later to a less glamorous eatery a few miles from the Strip.

It was a good life, and over the years Bernard Sykes met Hollywood actresses and local characters, professional athletes like Mike Tyson, and first-time visitors to the United States. Sometimes when customers drank beer and drank martinis to share the kind of intimacy only told strangers, she would tip a $ 100 bill across the counter.

Then, last spring, Sykes’s life fell apart like a dust devil of bad luck.

“They let me go immediately,” Sykes said, remembering the start of the pandemic shutdowns that cost him his job at $ 14 an hour. “Since then I’ve been unemployed.”

A year and two months since the coronavirus paralyzed the nation and led to record unemployment – including astoundingly high percentages among the service industry workers who make up more than a quarter of the city’s workforce – the US is awakening to the aftermath of a pandemic crisis that blackjack tables weakened and resulted in long lines at the tables.

In Las Vegas, where gambling revenues plummeted nearly 45% last year and tens of thousands of the city’s service industry workers are unemployed, casinos and restaurants returned to full capacity this week. In a sense, it is a test of America’s ability to take back itself. But the contours of this comeback are not fully drawn, and many wonder whether they will return to their lost livelihood or be forced into another year of uncertainty.

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