The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time | Mint

The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time

The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time
The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time

Summary

The security issue left MGM Resorts hotels on the Strip with an oddly analog vibe.

LAS VEGAS—The bellman at the Bellagio Resort & Casino was frank with the couple in line to check their bags early Wednesday morning.

“Just to let you know," he said, “everything’s a mess right now."

The full fallout from a cyberattack at MGM Resorts this week remains unknown, though it has frustrated travelers at every turn. Snaking check-in lines have been the norm, show and restaurant reservations have been upside-down and some slot machines have been dark.

MGM dominates a chunk of the Las Vegas Strip with a dozen hotels from Mandalay Bay to Bellagio.

For a place that promotes digital everything, from mobile room keys to slot machine vouchers, it’s been back to basics. Call it Bizarro Old Vegas.

All hands on deck

On a sweep through half a dozen MGM casino hotels, I saw employees armed with clipboards and pens everywhere. It was the strangest site I’ve seen since MGM installed those handwashing stations on the casino floor when Las Vegas casinos reopened in June 2020 after the pandemic closure.

At Aria Resort & Casino, a crown jewel in the chain, concierges were pressed into service to help manually check out travelers. They wrote down guests’ names and emails on white slips of paper so they could send a receipt. Behind the front desk, tables were filled with binders of master keys in case the system went down again and guests couldn’t get into their rooms.

At the luxe Bellagio, home to the famous fountain show, the reservations desk for the Cirque du Soleil show “O" told visitors who wanted tickets they needed cash or could book through Ticketmaster. Buffet workers wrote out credit-card numbers. All parking was temporarily free.

Getting cash was a problem, with ATMs not working at many of the casino hotels. A sign on two ATMs at MGM Grand said no cash advances were available. MGM didn’t respond to requests for comment.

For visitors, it was an extended exercise in patience.

Tim Dorweiler, a parts and service director for a Dallas-area auto dealership, was in town for meetings at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. He and his fiancée, Carrie Tremble, say they waited more than six hours for their room to be ready when they arrived Tuesday.

They canceled the reservation and fled to Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, part of MGM rival Caesars Entertainment, which dealt with its own cyberattack late this summer. It was the best option, he said, with some hotels charging rates as high as $1,300 a night. (MGM Resorts is offering free cancellations through Sept. 17.)

This is the couple’s second visit to Las Vegas this month. A birthday trip over Labor Day was also a mess, with storms causing a 13-hour flight delay.

“We’re just doomed to not have good luck here in Vegas," he says.

Delayed gratification

Slot machine players at all the casinos had to play a waiting game. The machines couldn’t spit out the vouchers players receive when they hit the cash-out button. So attendants scurried around manually paying the balance, a practice typically employed when someone wins a jackpot.

One Bellagio slot attendant said she had delivered as little as one penny. As of Wednesday afternoon, some of the bigger casinos in the chain still had several slot machines out of order.

Shari MacDonald and her sister-in-law arrived at Bellagio on Monday from Peterborough, Ontario. On the agenda, she says: “Slots. Slots. Slots. And a side of shows."

MacDonald is bummed she can’t access the casino freeplay she gets from her loyalty status and can’t cash in comps for free tickets to comedian Carrot Top at Luxor and other shows they wanted to see. She’s not mad, though.

“I’m being very patient and tolerant, because I can’t imagine how they’re feeling losing millions a day," she says.

On Wednesday, Bellagio tried to lessen the sting by setting up a free coffee stand near guest elevators, with almond milk and Irish cream and hazelnut creamers. At check-in, they served sparkling wine to lessen the lobby shock. Employees at Bellagio, Excalibur and other hotels also offered free water.

Judy Bender and David Cook, visiting from Michigan, weren’t pleased to find a two-hour line to check in at Luxor on Tuesday evening. They did appreciate the free wine and beer while they waited.

They took their small gambling budget to non-MGM casinos, after Cook waited more than an hour for an attendant to cash him out of the Triple Double Diamond slot machine.

The couple plans to return to Las Vegas next week after a swing through Arizona. They are booked at New York-New York, another MGM property. For now.

“Our fingers are crossed," Bender says.

Stephanie Bayer was blissfully unaware of MGM’s computer issues when she plopped down at a Wizard of Oz slot machine at Bellagio Wednesday morning to kill time before her friend’s flight arrived for a girl’s spa-and-show weekend.

The Cleveland-area healthcare administrator says she just figured some slot machines were inoperable because it was early. When she tried to cash out of her first machine, the employee who paid her out also delivered a voucher for food and drinks as a token of apology. (I saw this happen a few times on Wednesday and was even handed one at Park MGM when I talked to a visitor about her woes.)

“And they say the house always wins!" Bayer says.

—Sign up for the WSJ Travel newsletter for more tips and insights from Dawn Gilbertson and the rest of the Journal’s travel team.

Write to Dawn Gilbertson at dawn.gilbertson@wsj.com

The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time
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The Cyberattack That Sent Las Vegas Back in Time
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