Put on a medical facemask if you want to go back to a casino By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports April 25, 2020 at 5:00 am A reporter from MSNBC covering the shutdown of the Las Vegas Strip because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic asked me this week about smoking inside casinos once they reopen. Nevada gaming operators have maintained a longstanding opposition to any casino smoking prohibition despite efforts by anti-smoking organizations and health activists, and notwithstanding casino smoking bans in nearly two dozen states. My response was simple. It might be a little dangerous to light up a cigarette while wearing a medical facemask as protection from spreading or catching the virus. Six weeks into a nationwide gaming shutdown that has silenced nearly 1,000 casinos in 43 states, we are far removed from the shock of the closures. Medical masks and other facial protection my become common in Las Vegas once casinos reopen Questions are now focused on how the gaming industry reopens, getting the employees back to work safely, and if casino customers are ready to return to their pre-pandemic activities. The lack of airline flights into Las Vegas presents Strip casino operators a far different roadblock from the challenges facing drive-in markets in regional gaming states. Las Vegas Sands President Rob Goldstein said last week he doesn’t expect the U.S. casino industry – including Las Vegas – to bounce back quickly. Most believe casinos nationwide will re-open with an assortment of social distancing measures and safety precautions in an effort to satisfy a wary public. Similar procedures will take place in non-gaming businesses, including restaurants, retail outlets, and entertainment venues. “We’re all going to be wearing masks for a while,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, infectious diseases chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, predicted during a podcast with the Journal of the American Medical Association. Goldstein, who told analysts he often wears a medical mask at the Sands’ casinos in Macau, said Americans are much less relaxed with the concept. “It’s going to take some time and some comfort to get acclimated.” Several ideas have already been spelled out by casino companies, including limits on table game seats, increased spacing between slot machines, temperature checks for customers as they arrive at a property, mask protection and even gloves for both customers and employees, and enhanced cleaning operations throughout the properties. MGM Resorts Acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said casinos will look different, although he didn’t go into detail. It’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach. All eyes will be on Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel in Idaho next week. The Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council will begin the re-opening process on Monday with strict safety measures and enhanced cleaning. Plexiglass barriers have been added in certain areas. We know gambling customers miss the action. Online gaming has spiked in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the World Series of Poker’s online site in Nevada has seen a 45% increase in activity, and sports betting fans, tiring of Japanese sumo wrestling and soccer from Belarus, wagered in far greater numbers than predicted on the NFL Draft Thursday and Friday. “With millions of Americans stuck at home and sorely missing live sports, the NFL Draft is an especially welcomed event that will draw unprecedented interest, including from bettors,” sports gambling expert Sara Slane said Thursday morning. Customers and gaming employees want to go back to their former routines. But are they ready to put a medical mask to do so? Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.