Advice: Make mask wearing inside casinos mandatory for everyone By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports June 16, 2020 at 7:00 pm Comments Monday from Nevada’s governor and the state’s top gaming regulator stopped short of ordering casino visitors to wear facial masks when they are inside a resort property. For now. Nevada recorded its highest spike in positive tests for COVID-19 on Tuesday – 11 days after the state’s casino industry reopened under reduced capacity guidelines and health and safety protocols. Obviously, no one can say for certain the 379 new cases are tied to the loosening of restrictions on businesses, the recent social justice protests in Las Vegas and Reno, the reopening of casinos, or some combination of the three. Governor Steve Sisolak said during a press conference late Monday afternoon that the state had boosted its contact tracing procedures to determine potential sources and locations of any new, large outbreaks of COVID-19. So we will await those findings. In the meantime, Sisolak encouraged casino patrons to wear face masks, in addition to other efforts at social distancing, more frequent hand washing, and other protocols. “The gaming companies are going out of their way to get customers to wear masks,” Sisolak said of casinos providing free masks to visitors and hotel guests when they enter the property. “Some are doing better than others,” he added. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan responded Monday morning after media reports and Twitter blasts detailed normal but – in the coronavirus era – unsafe activities inside casinos. She said gaming employees need to wear masks and the casinos should continue to “strongly encourage patrons to wear them.” Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, left, and Gov. Steve Sisolak, tour Wynn Las Vegas. Photo via Las Vegas Review-Journal However, she said the policy could change if the COVID-19 numbers continue to increase in Nevada. “I would consider additional measures to ensure our health care system is not overburdened.” Here is a simple solution: Wear your mask. This not a political statement about control or freedom. It’s about safety. I’ve seen the statistics that masks are not a 100% deterrent to the virus. But it’s a start, and should be required. Take California, for example. Tribal casinos reopening in Nevada’s neighboring state have gone beyond simply encouraging mask-wearing and are now requiring face coverings. “Right now, masks are required to be worn by both team members and guests,” said Stephanie Lacsa, communications manager for San Diego’s Sycuan resort. “We also require a temperature check for both team members and guests before they can enter into our building.” The Pechanga Resort in Riverside County also requires everyone onsite to wear a face mask. Tribal Chairman Mark Macarro said the tribe’s health and safety guidelines “are even more stringent than surrounding jurisdictions.” The San Manuel Casino in San Bernardino County reopened Monday and includes a cap on the maximum number of guests at 2,600. All are required to wear a face covering. Beth Binger, a spokeswoman for Jamul Casino in San Diego, said in an email that “masks are required by both employees and casino guests, except of course during eating and smoking. But guests are reminded to wear their masks after those activities.” All is not uniform in Indian Country, however. ‘Here is a simple solution. Wear your mask.’ In Arizona, Harrah’s Ak-Chin near Phoenix suggests its customers wear masks, while Talking Stick, near Scottsdale, requires customers to wear a mask inside the property. In Oklahoma, the massive WinStar World casinos near the Texas border requires “patrons and employees to wear protective coverings over their nose and mouth at all times.” In upstate New York, the Oneida Tribe’s Turning Stone requires “mandatory face coverings for employees, guests, vendors, and the public — wherever feasible throughout our facilities.” Contrast that with Las Vegas, as noted by Los Angeles Times columnist Arash Markazi. The Bellagio, Markazi wrote on June 4, was taking social distancing safety precautions seriously. Not so much at other properties. “The Cosmopolitan, however, appeared as if it was six months ago, when there was no pandemic and social distancing had yet to enter our lexicon,” Markazi wrote. “There were signs posted in the casino encouraging guests to wear masks, but they were received as warmly as someone telling you (to) ‘try not to have too much fun’ before your Las Vegas trip.” Las Vegas is not alone. A Reno friend saw very few casino customers wearing masks over the weekend. Rail City Casino in Sparks offered customers a mask after a temperature screening. Gaming industry consultant and author Jeff Hwang has been traveling throughout Nevada – including some far-flung rural locations – for the past week, visiting every casino that has opened. He is providing commentary and photos on his Twitter feed, @RivalSchoolX. Indiana’s Blue Chip Casino General Manager Brenda Temple wears a mask while showing off social distancing between slot machines In an email, Hwang said the rate of casino employees wearing masks has been “100%,” but in the northeast corner of the state, where he was Monday, mask usage by customers “is basically 1%.” Hwang said he “walked into the gas station in Jackpot wearing a mask, and the cashier, who wasn’t wearing one, looked at me funny. These areas are largely untouched by coronavirus, for the moment.” Last year, commercial casinos in the U.S. brought in a record $43.6 million in gaming revenues and $10.2 billion in gaming taxes, neither sum of which accounts for the additional billions of dollars in sales, income, and other taxes from casinos. We’re not going to see numbers like that for several years because of the coronavirus-influenced shutdown of gaming that’s now exceeded three months in some jurisdictions. But the revenue and tax drought timeline could lengthen significantly if cases spike and another COVID-19 shutdown becomes necessary. Do us all a simple favor. Wear your mask. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.