Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
Published 11:09 a.m. ET July 24, 2020 | Updated 11:26 a.m. ET July 27, 2020
LAS VEGAS – Rick and JaNeen Bird are Las Vegas loyalists.
On Thursday morning, the retired Arizona couple stood outside Bally’s, waiting for Elvis and the showgirls to open the resort for the first time in four months.
Rick carried a plain blue face mask in his pocket until it was time to go inside. JaNeen wore hers the entire time, a black mask with her candidate’s name on it.
“President Trump,” it read above a tiny American flag. “Keep America Great.”
These Birds have for years refused to fly the Vegas coop. They’ve visited The Strip more times than they can remember.
‘It’s not as much fun’
They come for the video poker machines, seafood dinners and live entertainment.
Their son even got married at the same Las Vegas wedding chapel where they renewed vows on their 30th wedding anniversary.
“We’re very loyal,” JaNeen said.
They last visited in June, when Nevada casinos reopened after a statewide shutdown that lasted almost three months.
They’ve refused to let COVID-19 get in the way of their enjoyment – even if the pandemic has changed the tourist town they love.
“It’s not as much fun,” JaNeen said.
The shows are shuttered, half the casinos are closed, and there’s always someone telling you to put a mask on.
That’s what happened to them at the Paris pool.
“Some (expletive) said, ‘You have to wear a mask,’ so we didn’t go to the pool,” JaNeen said. “I don’t know who made that rule. What an idiot.”
There is no way she’s wearing a mask by the pool in 100-degree heat, she said.
Nevada’s casinos and COVID-19: Should they be open? It’s complicated, experts say.
Next to the couple stood dozens of Vegas vacationers with cellphone cameras pointed at dancers and showgirls.
There was less than 6 feet between many of them, but no one was there to tell them to social-distance.
After the confetti cannon exploded, JaNeen and the crowd cheered and walked through the resort’s revolving door.
Within an hour of Bally’s reopening, the old hotel-casino was back to old form.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
New arrivals rolled their luggage toward registration and their rooms.
Boyfriends and husbands hovered over girlfriends and wives sliding player cards and cash into slot machines.
Many pulled masks down to their chins to sip beer and smoke cigarettes.
Jason Molinar is a Las Vegas local who visited Bally’s to gamble on reopening day.
The 54-year-old Army veteran showed up wearing rubber gloves, a sun hat and two masks.
He said he’s doing his part to protect Las Vegas from the economic dangers of the pandemic by spending money at casinos.
“We have to open up Las Vegas,” Molinar said. “It’s going to kill Las Vegas if we don’t.”
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.