LV casino rules relax despite COVID worsening
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has issued a new health and safety directive that will allow 80 percent occupancy in most Las Vegas casinos and only a three-foot social distancing requirement, effective May 1, 2021. The state’s directive for wearing facial coverings as a means to slow the coronavirus pandemic will remain in place.
The Clark County occupancy limit would increase to 100 percent after county officials confirm that 60 percent of the eligible population has received its first COVID-19 vaccination. The three-foot social distancing requirement would be eliminated when the 60 percent vaccination rate is reached.
Paradoxically, Nevada matched the highest single-day increase in COVID-19 deaths in more than two months.
Data from the Department of Health and Human Services show 22 additional deaths occurred over the preceding day. It was the biggest single-day increase in the state death toll since 37 fatalities were reported on Feb. 20, 2021. There also were 22 deaths recorded on April 6, 2021.
Totals in Nevada rose to 312,840 cases and 5,422 deaths since the pandemic began.
Despite the increase in deaths, the Control Board’s notice, signed by Chairperson Brin Gibson, also includes reduced gaming floor restrictions.
The board said Washoe County’s local plan was not adequate so casinos in Reno and Sparks will be required to continue with the presently-required 50 percent occupancy and six-foot social distancing.
“The lifting of capacity shows that Las Vegas is back open for business,” analyst Brendan Bussmann of consultancy firm Global Market Advisors said.
As capacity constraints lift, visitors will be able to look forward to enjoying a “full experience” heading into the summer, including shows, nightlife, and meetings and conventions, he said.
Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor of hospitality at UNLV, said the relaxed restrictions are “another great sign” that the Las Vegas economy is rebounding. She did not address the contradictory COVID-19 data.
“It’s a great day in Nevada to see us able to do what we do best, provide world class service at state of the art casino hotels,” she said. “The ability to increase capacity will have a profound impact on our economy and send the message that we are ready for visitors.”
Bussmann added that the city also faces challenges ahead with the increasing number of airline passengers into McCarran International Airport. He said, “...there is no industry that has adapted better and implemented the protocols it needs to provide a safe environment for every guest through additional measures, testing and vaccines.”
Many local observers disagreed with Bussmann, including BJ21’s local blackjack player, card counter, general advantage player, and player advocate Al Rogers, who has been a long-time critic of the Board. Rogers commented sardonically, “The Board has never been much concerned with protecting the public, just protecting casinos. It is showing its usual three wise monkeys philosophy in pandering to the casino interests yet again."
On Twitter, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak noted that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended lifting the pause on the one-shot Janssen COVID-19 vaccination. He indicated Nevada would follow that recommendation.
Rogers went on to say, “Governor Sisolak was a good force for common sense at the beginning of the pandemic, taking decisive action quickly. But he has faltered now by opening up too much, and has been a disappointment in not continuing to stand up to the casinos and other greedy, selfish interests that are more concerned with their own bottom lines than saving lives and eventually returning Nevada to public-health normalcy.”
“Las Vegas Valley casinos allowed 80% occupancy starting May 1”, Richard N. Velotta, lvrj.com, April 23, 2021.
“Nevada matches highest single-day COVID death total since February”, Katelyn Newberg, lvrj.com, April 23, 2021.
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