- Nevada’s gaming industry reopened on June 4 after a shutdown on more than two months.
- Initially, masks were ‘suggested’ but not required for all casino patrons.
- Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reversed course to require masks at all table games.
As a number of areas experience spikes in coronavirus cases as the economy reopens many are recalibrating their response to the situation. This is true not only in the broader scope but very much true in the casino gaming industry. Some jurisdictions are taking drastic approaches to the upswing in positive COVID-19 tests such as in Arizona where Gila River Gaming Enterprises has closed their three properties for two weeks to reevaluate safety standards. The Gila River Hotel & Casinos at Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte, and Vee Quiva had been opened for less than five weeks.
In Nevada, casinos have been reopened for going on three weeks after the state’s gaming industry was closed for over two months. Although it’s not evident that the gaming industry is responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases they’re clearly aware that Nevada had two straight days of 400+ new cases. Individual casinos have each crafted their own health and safety policies in line with state health and gaming regulator standards. While some properties such as those run by Caesars Entertainment have required face masks for table games most of the industry left that decision as ‘optional’. Now they don’t have that ‘option’–last week the Nevada Gaming Control Board issued new guidance requiring face masks at all table games.
According to a report in the Las Vegas Review Journal, Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan indicated that feedback from gaming agents had conveyed their concern about declining mask use in casinos. This led the board to issue the new order:
“In the first week (after the June 4 reopening of casinos), we wanted to take an approach of communicating and encouraging compliance and talk to licensees about what our expectations were, but in the second week, it became abundantly clear based on our agents’ observations that patrons’ usage of masks was significantly declining.”
NEW RULES WERE EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY
The new guidelines took effect immediately after issued. The specifics require face masks for all players and spectators as well as ‘anyone within 6 feet of any gaming or card table’. The new requirement only applies to casinos without a plexiglass or other barrier between players and dealer. Some casinos including the Wynn Las Vegas and Bellagio already have this type of protection for dealers. Here’s the verbiage of the NGC’s order:
“Licensees must require patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition or shield between the dealer and each player. This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators and any other person within 6 feet of any table or card game.”
The original reopening requirements stipulated that all casino employees wear facial protection. While masks are now required at table games other patrons in the casinos including video poker and slots players are not required to wear masks. That notwithstanding, properties are required to offer them and ‘encourage their use’:
Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Morgan said that unlike most casino employees, table game dealers are stuck in one place for most of the day and exposed to hundreds of patrons:
“When you have a dealer that’s standing in front of up to five people and there are significant others behind them and then there are people watching for an hour at a time, it was concerning, not only for me but other board members as well.”
“We were at least able to agree that face coverings (were needed) at table games, if there’s not going to be Plexiglas or any other kind of barrier. The lack of individual patron responsibility is disappointing to say the least, so we have to do at least what we can to ensure that the gaming employees have some protection as well.”
Morgan also added that if the upswing in cases were to continue that additional measures would be considered. She might not have to make this call–Nevada governor Steve Sisolak indicated on Friday that he was considering ‘enhanced face covering policies’ for the Silver State.