MGM Resorts CEO Celebrates US Ending COVID-19 Testing for International Travelers

MGM Resorts Chief Executive Officer Bill Hornbuckle wasted no time in applauding the Biden administration’s decision to lift its COVID-19 testing requirement for international travelers.

A COVID-19 testing sign at Boston’s Logan International Airport in 2020. MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle says Las Vegas will benefit from COVID-19 testing for international travelers being lifted for US entry. (Image: AP)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday that travelers seeking to enter the United States from foreign countries must no longer test negative for the coronavirus. The travel protocol will be formally lifted at 12:01 am ET on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

The CDC explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted into a new phase with the widespread distribution of coronavirus vaccines, therapeutic developments, and infection-reduced immunity. As such, ongoing testing for incoming travelers from international countries is no longer warranted.

Hornbuckle, who heads Nevada’s largest employer, said the federal government’s decision will help further rebound the nation’s tourism industry.

This is a huge development for Las Vegas, the travel and tourism industry, and the nation’s overall economy,” Hornbuckle declared. “Expanding international travel has been a top priority for our industry, the state of Nevada and the US Travel and Tourism Advisory Board, and we are grateful to the Biden administration and congressional leaders for their collaboration on this issue.

“I want to especially thank Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) — along with the entire Nevada congressional delegation — whose leadership was instrumental in making this happen,” the MGM boss added.

Hopeful for Key Segment Return

The US government’s decision to no longer require negative COVID-19 tests for international travelers is expected to entice some hesitant foreigners to book a trip back to Las Vegas after more than two years away. Though Strip casinos are experienced record gaming, the casino industry is eager to welcome back coveted Asian VIPs who tend to stay longer and gamble more than domestic guests.

Today marks another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the US Travel Association. “The Biden administration is to be commended for this action, which will welcome back visitors from around the world and accelerate the recovery of the US travel industry.”

Foreigners in pre-pandemic 2019 accounted for approximately six million travelers to Las Vegas. While visitors coming to Southern Nevada from other parts of the US average 3.4 nights in Las Vegas, international travelers typically stay almost a night longer.

Gaming Numbers Pinpoint Void

Nevada casinos have won at least $1 billion in each of the past 14 months, a previously unheard-of streak. But gaming revenue reports from the Nevada Gaming Control Board shine light on a vertical that remains far below pre-pandemic levels.

Revenue from baccarat, the game of choice among high rollers from Asia, remains suppressed from 2019. In 2021, gross gaming revenue (GGR) from the table game totaled $939.1 million. In 2019, baccarat revenue totaled $1.051 billion — a difference of nearly 11%.

Nevada’s baccarat play is predominantly incurred on the Las Vegas Strip. With travel restrictions easing, Strip casinos are putting more baccarat tables back in play.

For example, in April of 2021, there were 21 Strip casinos collectively offering 306 baccarat tables. In April of this year, 22 Strip casinos offered baccarat, and the number of active tables ballooned to 369.

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