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Vegas Casino Reopenings Hinge on Coronavirus Prevention Plans

May 7, 2020, 7:33 PM

Las Vegas casinos that want to reopen after Nevada lifts coronavirus restrictions will have to regularly clean roulette wheels and dice and should task employees with stopping guests from congregating.

The state has yet to set a date for the return of gaming, but regulators on Thursday approved health-and-safety policies to prepare the industry for its return to business. The new requirements set minimum standards for resorts and casinos to limit close contact between people and to disinfect their properties.

The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously on policies that commissioners said are fluid as more information emerges about the pandemic. They lay a foundation for reopening during an unparalleled disruption to the industry after machines went dark and casinos closed in March on the order of Gov. Steve Sisolak (D).

“We’re talking about things that are not chiseled in granite,” John Moran Jr., the commission’s acting chairman, said.

Bigger casinos will be required to submit Covid-19 prevention plans to the state that address cleaning protocols and social distancing measures. Supermarkets and other properties with only a few gaming machines must acknowledge they will follow state policies.

The requirements don’t go as far as union casino and resort workers want. They are asking for temperature checks, employer-paid testing, and other measures not addressed in the state’s policies.

Limits at Table Games, Slot Machines

The procedures developed by the Nevada Gaming Control Board span small convenience stores to large hotels with the aim of keeping gaming safe and enjoyable, Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said. The board is working with Sisolak’s office to decide when gaming will resume based on medical guidance and the state’s reopening framework, Morgan said in an interview.

To reopen, casinos must increase sanitation of frequently touched items and equipment, train employees on how to prevent the spread of the virus, and limit crowds. That includes reconfiguring floor plans to allow for social distancing, such as only letting people sit at every other slot machine.

Each gaming area will be limited to 50% occupancy, and the number of players will be limited for table games like blackjack, craps, and poker. Casinos must show in their plans how they will disinfect cards and chips as well as provide visitors with hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Nightclubs and dayclubs will initially stay closed, and seating will be reduced at restaurants and bars. Properties must also develop protocols for cleaning hotel rooms where a guest with Covid-19 has stayed.

Employers should tell workers to stay home if they are sick and to report co-workers or guests showing Covid-19 symptoms.

Casinos Release Own Safety Plans

The biggest association representing Nevada’s gaming and resort industry supports the new directives. Its members “have been meticulously refining” their health-and-safety protocols as the industry moves to reopen, Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said in a statement.

A few major companies already announced policies that mirror or go beyond the state’s requirements. The plan for Wynn Las Vegas notes thermal checks for guests and employees, the addition of touchless hand sanitizer, and providing guests with masks.

Measures at the Venetian Resort will include performing temperature checks and rearranging slot machines to allow for distancing, according to its plan. Gondolas carrying guests along the resort’s indoor canal will be limited to four people, and gondoliers will “serenade passengers from an appropriate distance,” it said.

But representatives of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents Nevada hotel and casino workers, want the state to require measures such as widely available personal protective equipment and antibody testing for workers.

Gaming workers want to return to work “in a safe environment where we’re not viewed as rats in a lab,” D. Taylor, international president of UNITE HERE, of which the culinary union is an affiliate, said at a Tuesday press conference.

—With assistance from Chris Palmeri

To contact the reporter on this story: Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com