Nevada casinos to reopen; will patrons stay away?
Nevada’s gaming industry could reopen in early June after more than two months of closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced. If it does, will tourists and locals flock back to casinos, or will they stay away?
The Gaming Control Board will meet with health officials to review safety and sanitation protocols that Nevada resorts claim they plan to implement. The board needs to give its approval for the opening of the industry. However, the board is widely considered to be essentially a rubber stamp for the industry in Nevada, and the industry has a poor record when it comes to issues of protecting patrons. Will this affect the public’s perception of safety? Coronavirus cases appear to already be on the rise again throughout much of the United States.
"The board is firmly aware of its statutory duty to protect the public health and welfare of the Silver State's citizenry, while allowing the gaming industry to flourish through strict regulation," Sisolak said in a statement. However, Nevada usually does little or nothing to punish casino wrongdoing, as anyone with the slightest knowledge of patron abuse cases knows.
Resorts are required to submit safety plans to the board for approval at least seven days before they reopen. Some of the expected changes include: employees and patrons wearing face coverings, many sanitation stations, limited capacity at table games (three players instead of six at blackjack, for instance), and temperature checks for visitors entering a property. Is this little more than safety theater?
And like the first phase of the state's reopening. crowds will be capped. Companies on The Strip will initially only open a handful of properties. Caesars Entertainment will start with Caesars Palace and Flamingo; MGM Resorts will start with Bellagio and New York-New York.
In response to the target date, a Caesars Entertainment spokesman said the company is “excited to welcome back our guests and employees to our properties.”
“This is fantastic news for Nevada’s largest industry and for Nevada’s economy,” said Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, in a recent tweet. “Our members are ready to begin the work of moving the state’s recovery forward as quickly as possible."
The opening will provide relief for some of the state’s workforce. David Schmidt, the chief economist at the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said the number of jobs in the food and hospitality industry was down 41% compared to April 2019. Nevada in April 2020 had a record 28.2% jobless rate.
Sisolak also is expected to detail plans for the second phase of the state’s tiered reopening. But it's uncertain if businesses still closed -- places of worship, gyms and bars -- would be included.
The state’s reopening documents indicate the phase will include a “broader opening of commerce/retail, services and public life under extremely strict social distancing measures, hygiene and occupancy controls.”
"Safer at Home" recommendations will stay in place during the second phase, according to the document, while vulnerable populations will be urged to stay home until the outbreak is over. Face masks will be strongly encouraged. Unfortunately, many have already disregarded this common-sense advice, as has been widely shown in national news coverage.
“If you don’t wear it for yourself, wear it for front-end health care workers, people in nursing homes and the veterans,” Sisolak said. “I deal with first responders and they tell me that they want nothing more than for people to wear face coverings because it does make a difference... We implore (everyone) to practice social distancing and wear a face mask.”
“Sisolak: June 4 target date for reopening gaming in Nevada”, by Bryan Horwath and John Sadler, lasvegassun.com, May 25, 2020.