Are they casinos or hospitals? Gaming leaders increase hygiene and cleaning measures By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports May 2, 2020 at 5:00 am We’re starting to get an idea of what casinos will look like once they are allowed to reopen in the era of COVID-19. In some cases, the protocols for hygiene, sanitation, disinfecting, and cleaning on gaming floors are going to rival hospitals. No, a doctor won’t be able to perform open-heart surgery at a blackjack table. But casino operators don’t want their guests worried about contracting coronavirus from stacking chips. Wynn Resorts released a reopening plan two weeks ago that had hygiene measures developed in consultation with three leading public health professionals and fellows from Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities. This past week, Las Vegas Sands released the company’s “Venetian Clean Commitment,” which had more than 800 guidelines and safety protocols that exceed practices and requirements issued by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. These are not your usual gaming consultants. A player has his temperature checked by a security officer before entering a Macau casino “While we have always put health and safety at the forefront of all that we do, they are new imperatives,” MGM Resorts International acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said Thursday on the company’s quarterly conference call with analysts. “We are collaborating with public health officials, experts in epidemiology and biosafety, and both state and federal governments to come up with a set of protocols that will help deliver a secure environment,” Hornbuckle said. MGM Resort’s health and safety plan won’t ready for several weeks. Boyd Gaming CEO Keith Smith said the company is also working on health and safety protocols. The challenge for MGM and Boyd is satisfying the concerns of gaming regulators in multiple states. The Venetian initiative includes thermal screeners at every entry point to the Strip resort to measure a person’s temperature, hand sanitizing stations throughout the casino and frequent cleanings in all public spaces. The resort will also employ 25 certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) that will be available 24/7. For hotel guests, Venetian Clean “personal care” amenity kits will include hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes, gloves, and face masks. Last week, SunTrust Robinson gaming analyst Barry Jonas held a roundtable discussion for investors on what casinos could resemble in the COVID-19 universe. He invited thought leaders covering four areas – regulatory, gaming, non-gaming, and marketing. Global Market Advisors partner Brendan Bussmann said gaming regulators might issue “minimum acceptable standards for re-opening.” Bussmann expects casinos to go far beyond requiring social distancing, the usage of personal protective equipment, and sanitation and cleanliness protocols. He expects operators to implement more stringent, self-directed procedures, such as the Sands initiative. Beyond providing a safe environment, casino leaders are figuring efforts to entice customers to come back after being told to practice social distancing for nearly two months. Josh Swissman, a partner with Las Vegas-based The Strategy Organization, said the promotion environment could see casinos – especially Strip properties – offering rooms at a low cost as an “escape” or quick “get-away.” Swissman, whose experience includes time with Station Casinos and MGM Resorts, predicted the “staycation,” where Strip resorts and other destination markets target a locals audience, was one way to fill available rooms. I’m guessing properties can toss in medical masks and other PPE as incentives. PPE with a property or gaming company logo might become the new collector’s item for historians, like matchbooks and slot machine change buckets from different casinos. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.