14Mar1:21 pmEST

I Hope I'm Wrong, But...

The gaming regulator in Massachusetts voted earlier today to temporarily suspend operations of the state’s casinos, which includes WYNN's Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and PENN's Plainridge Park Casino. 

As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in various casinos throughout the country over the last two decades, I cannot overstate just how infectious many aspects of the casino truly are with respect to an illness like COVID-19. Oftentimes, you are in fairly crowded, close quarters with everyone touching the same casino chips and the same playing tables/felt, the same elevator buttons over and over, door handles, player cards, not to mention your cocktail waitress having her/his hands on drinks already finished and freshly-made ones, etc.. 

The fact that any poker rooms, for example, throughout this country are still open right now (and the majority are) may prove to be a major blunder as the virus news unfolds. The poker room, simply put, is practically designed to spread germs. Actually, famous tournament poker pros Daniel Negreanu and Phil Helmuth are discussed in a Sports Illustrated article here, basically saying as much. 

So what does it all mean for us and the markets? 

I think we are well on our way to seeing at least all poker rooms and sports books (with sports on hiatus, anyway) shutting down, which is what Wynn Las Vegas already did.

But, beyond that, what we saw in Massachusetts today may just be the beginning.

In the coming weeks I expect the Las Vegas Strip (with premier properties like MGM's Bellagio already rumored to have single-digit percent occupancy this weekend) to temporarily shut down entirely, something I once thought only an asteroid hitting Earth could do. 

Has that already been adequately priced into the gaming stocks in light of their recent plunges? I suspect not, as we are dealing with a situation that did not occur for casinos in 1987, 2000, 9/11, 2008, nor after the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting. 

I hope I'm wrong, and this all blows over by the end of the month, and the Strip will be buzzing again like this never happened. But closing down multiple parts of major casinos, or the entire casino in the case of Massachusetts, is not something to be taken lightly at all. 

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