Gaming industry challenge: pressing employees to get vaccinated By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports August 4, 2021 at 6:02 pm As COVID-19 cases again surge across the country due in large part to the spread of the delta variant of the virus and a lagging vaccination rate in most states, the gaming industry finds challenges on many fronts. One politically prickly predicament is pushing employees to get vaccinated. For most, this seems like a no-brainer, but going strictly by the statistics, it’s clear that vaccine hesitancy is real. It also imperils shot-term and long-range business models for an industry that relies heavily on drawing big traffic and generating face-to-face contact. Beyond the Plexiglas and medical best practices is the shot-in-the-arm twisting that’s going on. The state’s decision to return to mask mandates following a surge in the infection rate that put Nevada in a critical spotlight was the right thing to do and smart policy. But I’m left to wonder whether it made sense to drop our guard in the first place, given that Las Vegas draws millions of visitors from across the country and around the world. By Whispyhistory – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99366141 This is one of those no-one-asked-me-but moments: Las Vegas should have the most safety procedures and precautions. I know that probably conjures images of casino dealers and cocktail servers dressed like NHL goalies, but it’s certainly smarter than throwing open the gates too soon. It’s such a pivotal issue that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in April issued a detailed list of best practices and recommendations in the run-up to the summer reopening when the infection rate was dropping and vaccination rates were rising sufficiently. That condition has changed dramatically with the spread of the delta variant. Equally troubling is the increasing number of anti-mask and anti-vaccine protesters, who continue to conflate the best available medical practices and time-tested health and social-distancing measures with a loss of their individual freedom. It may play as part of a political strategy, but it’s the height of insanity in a community so reliant on the safety of its visitors to support its economy. Fortunately for the Nevada casino industry, other businesses are taking the aggressive and necessary step to demand workers get vaccinated or start looking elsewhere for employment. At Tyson Foods, for example, thousands of its U.S. employees are now mandated to get a vaccine jab. In New Jersey, a plan is being developed to mandate vaccinations for all state employees. In Southern Nevada, meanwhile, health-district officials recently offered a company line following Governor Steve Sisolak’s recent mask-mandate announcement. To wit: “While using masks correctly has proven to be effective in helping to prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19, the best, most effective step people can take to protect themselves is to get fully vaccinated.” On the Strip, casino corporations continue to weigh strategies. From MGM Resorts: “We continually evaluate and update our policies based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.” Not that it had a choice, but Wynn Las Vegas promised to follow the mask directive. Frankly, I liked the approach taken by Gaming Control Board Chairman J. Brin Gibson and Gaming Commission Chairman John Moran, Jr., in their co-authored notice to licensees back in April. They reminded licensees of the mandate to regulate the gaming industry in a manner that “protect[s] the public health, safety, morals, good order, and general welfare of the inhabitants of the state.” Cutting through the noise and smoke of deception can be difficult, but at its heart, this isn’t a tough call. Vaccines should be mandatory for all casino employees. The health and safety of workers and customers hang in the balance. So does the bottom line.