‘The behind-the-scenes message is that it’s chaotic,’ Las Vegas travel expert shares insight on hotel hack impacts on tourism

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — As the two largest hotel and casino players on the Las Vegas Strip recover from seemingly back-to-back cyberattacks, the damage could leave lasting impacts on how many tourists frequent them.

The near-dozen MGM Resorts properties continue to see complications for guests following the hack first identified on Sunday. The federal filing shows Caesars Entertainment, which owns eight hotels along Las Vegas Boulevard, paid up to $15 million in ransom for an attack at least a few days prior.

Jennifer Gay, better known to 1.4 million TikTokers as “VegasStarfish,” has documented it all through her various social media channels. The former journalist – turned poker dealer, turned online travel specialist – frequently showcases Las Vegas experiences and restaurants from an insider point-of-view.

“I don’t make the products, I just shine a light on them,” Gay said inside the 8 News Now studios Friday morning.

From the typical 200 to 500 social media messages she says are received daily, it has since risen to over 500 an hour. They’re mostly coming from the guests and workers at affected hotels and casinos, sharing their behind-the-scenes experiences through the hack.

With the sender’s consent, she anonymously posts them on her channels: lost PTO tracking for employees, no hot water in hotel rooms for guests, and overall annoyances for everyone involved.

“Literally, no one knows when they’re supposed to come into work, and they don’t have cellphone numbers. So, they’re having to use, like, Gmail, and ‘Hey, do you have Linda’s number?’” Gay said. “When 5,000 people are sending the same message, there’s a reason to believe that it’s valid.

Though MGM Resorts said its website returned online in a limited capacity Friday – with most dining, show, and attraction reservations accessible – slot machine winnings still require attendants, and booking a room is only doable through a third-party website.

“The behind-the-scenes message is that it’s chaotic, but they’re making the best of a bad situation.”

The travel specialist and social media influencer remains optimistic about a return to “normal,” despite the alleged hacker’s threat that they will commence future cyber attacks if a ransom is not paid by MGM Resorts.

“I don’t know that we should necessarily trust the word of people who make their money by hurting and exploiting people,” Gay said.

But, will that return to “normal” also be seen in the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the Strip annually?

“How do you think this is going to impact the amount of people wanting to actually come here? The tourism here?” 8 News Now Reporter Ryan Matthey asked.

“There’s always going to be people who have a knee-jerk reaction to it. When the bed bugs were the big topic a few weeks ago, one of the things I made a point to point out was bed bugs are a human issue and they’re in every hotel in the world. Cyber security is a human issue. It’s in every hotel, restaurant, hospital. Your information is always at risk,” Gay said. “You can’t sit at home in another state and not enjoy yourself because you’re scared something might happen, because it can happen there too.”

Gay recommends as cyber security experts that 8 News Now have interviewed, for visitors to alert their bank of any suspicious activity and use cash mostly in the meantime.

“These cyberattacks are happening everywhere, all the time, and they are largely going unreported. Companies don’t want to report them because it’s scary and there’s not a lot of information about it and it’s a public relations nightmare. But, the fact is, we should be talking about it,” she said.

MGM Resorts has established a FAQ page that will be updated on a rolling basis about what aspects of their properties are functional.