Governor: Nevada casinos can welcome back visitors on June 4 Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · May 27, 2020 at 7:32 am Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak gave the nation’s largest casino industry the official green light to reopen the Las Vegas Strip and other statewide gaming operations on June 4 after being closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus outbreak. In a statement Tuesday evening, Sisolak said positive data trends in Nevada – state health officials said the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 have fallen for 30 straight days – gave him the confidence to reopen the state’s casino industry, which produced $12 billion in gaming revenues last year. “We’re welcoming visitors back to Nevada on June 4, but we’re going to take every precaution possible,” Sisolak said in a telephonic briefing with reporters. “We’re encouraging visitors to come and enjoy themselves and have a good time.” Sisolak said Nevada’s travel advisory, which currently requires people coming into the state to self-quarantine for 14 days, will be revised before next week. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak “Based on the meeting today and the positive trends in our data, I have informed the chair of the Gaming Control Board that I feel confident in the June 4th target date,” Sisolak said in a statement. The Gaming Control Board, the full-time agency that oversees the casino industry, has put into place health and safety guidelines to protect casino customers and employees. On Tuesday morning, the board held a three-and-a-half-hour workshop with health and safety experts involved in managing Nevada’s response to COVID-19 in an effort to fine-tune those requirements. Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said at the meeting’s conclusion that the agency would release an industry notice on Wednesday with additional rules and compliance procedures. Sisolak said on the conference call that the board would have agents and personnel in place to ensure casinos are operating under the guidelines and that customers are following social distancing protocols. “It is critical to put the health and safety of employees, residents and visitors first through proactive measures, coupled with the Health and Safety Policies issued by the Gaming Control Board,” Sisolak said in a statement. “This is what will help ensure that Nevada can safely reopen its gaming industry on June 4. I know the Gaming Control Board remains resolute in ensuring that gaming operations in this State do not compromise the health and safety of Nevadans, our employees, and our visitors.” The governor’s office announced last Friday that casinos would tentatively reopen on June 4 as part of the state’s second phase in restarting the state’s economy. Gaming and non-essential businesses were ordered closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to casinos, Sisolak is allowing gyms and fitness facilities to reopen, along with recreation areas and swimming pools, movie theaters, and bowling centers, provided they adhere to several social distancing limitations. Also, businesses with 15 slot machines or less, such as taverns, convenience stores, bars, and restaurants, will be allowed to relaunch gaming operations on June 4. Not all Nevada casinos will reopen immediately. Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International will each reopen two properties out of a combined 18 resorts. One gaming analyst said fewer than half of the available hotel rooms on the Strip will be available at the outset. The challenge for casino operators is in assessing demand. Many resorts were accepting hotel room reservations during May, only to have to cancel the bookings or move them up into June. The effort did provide casino marketing offices a database of customers interested in coming to Las Vegas in the post-pandemic era. Virginia Valentine, CEO of the Nevada Resort Association, the trade organization that represents the state’s casino industry, said Tuesday that gaming operators have learned it’s a much easier process to close a property than reopen it after being shut down for more than nine weeks. “We have consistently said we need at least seven to 10 days’ notice, at least, before reopening,” Valentine said. “There are many changes to the physical plant, such as how to social distance. You have re-stock the pantry, the casino cages, and the ATMs. And, you have to reach out to your employees and your customers. The big, savvy operators have kept in touch with their workers.” The Control Board’s guidelines established initial requirements covering cleaning and disinfecting operations, social distancing, and virus-screening temperature checks for customers and employees. Multiple hand-sanitizing stations and guides that recommend frequent hand-washing and social-distancing techniques will be available. Casinos run by resort operators will be limited to no more than 50% their maximum occupancy capacity, must increase the space between their slot machines, and will be required to limit the seating at table games – three players for blackjack, six for craps, four for roulette, and four for poker. Fermin Leguen, chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District, said Tuesday COVID-19 testing should be provided to “100 percent of all frontline casino employees” and be repeated “systematically.” Leguen said casino employees should wear masks and any employees who have a high temperature should not be able to return to work until cleared by medical professionals. Mason Van Houweling, CEO of Las Vegas’ University Medical Center, said the hospital is working with several hotel companies and the Culinary Workers Union to test Nevada casino workers before the properties reopen. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.