Tourist apathy and industry indicators add to fears of WSOP cancelation.

Kat Martin
Published by:
Posted on 08/11/2021

The recent firestorm ignited by the WSOP announcing its rules for COVID disqualification at the 2021 series has cast new doubts on it running at all. As reported previously by Poker.org, a COVID-positive dealer on their own could wipe out one or more events. Any more widespread outbreak would seem (according to WSOP’s own rules) to make continuing the series basically impossible.

While many on Twitter have argued that WSOP has to offer some further clarification to make the series at least plausible, we decided to tap other Vegas barometers in an attempt to better assess the odds of the 52nd WSOP going ahead.

Our first data point was provided by a tweet from John Mehaffey, who runs the popular Vegas Advantage website:

“Our @Vegas_Advantage site is down 20-25% in traffic from search engines in the last two weeks.”

Given that the site focuses on casino table games and poker, a drop in interest in such material likely signifies fewer gaming tourists planning on making a trip to Las Vegas in the near future.

The drop in the site’s traffic coincides with the reinstitution of the indoor mask mandate in Las Vegas and much of the state. It’s hard to say if tourists are being frightened off a Vegas vacation, or if it’s simply that visiting Sin City wearing a mask is viewed as far less fun. It may, however, support our earlier assertion that staffing shortages during the WSOP might be ameliorated by a drop in player attendance.

In addition to hosting the WSOP, Las Vegas is an international destination for large conventions, as well as a host of high-profile festivals such as the Electric Daisy Carnival and Life Is Beautiful. Like the WSOP, such events involve large numbers of people in close proximity to one another, frequently inside the ballrooms and conference rooms of the city’s hotel-casinos.

Life Is Beautiful, scheduled for September 17th to 19th in downtown Las Vegas, has just announced via tweet:

“Our most important duty as festival hosts is to keep you and your music-loving peers safe every festival weekend.”

Requiring both proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test is a bold step to protect attendees and the event. It is also a potential path for WSOP to follow.

Production Resource Group (PRG) in Las Vegas is the largest supplier of lighting, audio, video and scenic design for these events. We asked one of their representatives what the next couple of months looked like from their perspective. We received a direct response:

“Anti-vaxers are f**king everything up. We were starting to gain traction, then delta happened.”

Our PRG source further revealed that bookings in October that would normally be 100% locked in by now are not. Those bookings are variously estimated to have a 50% to 75% probability of going ahead. Fundamentally, concert and convention organizers that face similar COVID-related problems to WSOP are not banking on being here in October.

As a tourist destination spot, New Orleans has much in common with Las Vegas. While it is true that in COVID infection rates are worse in Louisiana than Nevada, the cancelation of the high-profile New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival is ominous. It was scheduled to run from October 8th through 17th; right when WSOP 2021 should be in full swing.

There are only 50 days to go until the scheduled start of the 2021 WSOP. Our discussions with industry insiders and poker players suggests confidence in it running at all is falling.

Featured image source: Twitter