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Sep 29, 2020

MGM looks to restart Vegas conventions with rapid COVID tests

An empty sidewalk outside the MGM Resorts International Bellagio Resort & Casino.

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MGM Resorts International is making a bid to win back its lucrative meetings and conventions business by borrowing some technology from the National Hockey League.

The company, the largest operator of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip, will deploy temperature checks, rapid Covid-19 testing and mobile IDs, to screen and reassure customers returning to the city for business. The technology, provided by Impact Health and Secure Identity LLC’s Clear, was also used by the NHL during its playoffs.

“There are probably some smaller corporations or smaller corporate meetings that probably might have interest in this as well as associations where you need to convene people in order to continue educating and knowledge sharing,” Atif Rafiq, MGM’s president of commercial and growth, said in an interview.

The pandemic has pummeled tourism to America’s gambling capital. Through July, the city saw a 55 per cent drop in visitors compared with 2019, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. Convention attendees dwindled to zero.

Meetings are subject to local restrictions. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, is expected to raise the 50-person cap on groups this week.

Event organizers have the option to give attendees a rapid Covid test, which provides results in 20 minutes. Other precautions include prepackaged foods for guests.

MGM and other Las Vegas operators may have their work cut out for them. Last week, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research told trade-show promoters and vendors not to expect in-person conventions until late summer or fall of next year. People seem willing to drive to events, but social-distancing requirements and anxiety over flying inhibit large groups, said Nancy Drapeau, the center’s vice president of research.