‘Last Call’ announced in Nevada bars following directive to slow state’s COVID-19 spread Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · July 11, 2020 at 11:59 pm Bars and bar top areas inside restaurants, taverns, and casinos – including those locations with restricted gaming operations – closed just before midnight Friday in an effort to quell the state’s recent coronavirus spike. Following the directive issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak, the locations in seven of Nevada’s 17 counties were subject to the shutdown after meeting two of the three criteria established by the state, including a low number of average COVID-19 tests per day, a high rate of new coronavirus cases, or a significant case rate coupled with a low test positivity rate. Southern Nevada’s Clark County – home to the Las Vegas Valley and the Strip – and Northern Nevada’s Washoe County, which includes the Reno area – were included in the closures. The seven counties, combined, make up roughly 94.6 percent of the state’s population. According to the directive, bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries, and wineries not licensed to serve food – but have restricted or non-restricted gaming operations – and located in a county with elevated disease transmission, will remain closed indefinitely. Restaurants and food establishments, and bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries, and wineries licensed to serve food in a restaurant-type setting, must close bar tops and bar areas to customers. The vast majority of restricted gaming locations – bars, taverns, and restaurants – have their slot machines embedded in bar tops. The directive also included bars inside Nevada’s resort casinos. According to the directive, bar beverages may be served at tables outside of the bar area for onsite consumption. Customers must only be served via table services and may not order from a bar top area. Bar top slot machines, such as this game from IGT, were closed in restricted locations in Nevada under the governor’s directive 15 slot machines or fewer Nevada’s restricted gaming industry – locations statewide with 15 or fewer slot machines – also includes grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores. Those locations are not included in the directive and can remain open. However, the vast majority of the state’s restricted gaming – some 2,000 total locations – are bars, restaurants, and taverns. Statewide, all restricted gaming locations had 19,054 slot machines in operation, according to a March 31 quarterly report from the Gaming Control Board. The locations largely cater to a heavy locals’ customer base. Restricted gaming locations do not report monthly and annual revenue figures to the Gaming Control Board and are taxed differently than casinos, which pay 6.75 percent monthly on taxable gaming revenue in excess of $134,000. Restricted locations pay an annual fee of $250 per machine and quarterly fees based on the number of games. For the first five games, the quarterly fee paid to the state is $81 per machine. The locations pay $141 per quarter for each of the next 10 machines. Under the formula, the total annual tax for a location with 15 slot machines is $11,010. State gaming regulators consider revenues from slot machines as “incidental” to a restricted gaming location’s primary business, although a percentage figure to what constitutes “incidental” has never been established. COVID-19 surges in Nevada Nevada has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases – both the rate of positive tests and an increase in hospitalizations – over the past month, which include some of the highest single-day cases of the virus since the pandemic began. In a press release, the governor’s office said the directive would be reevaluated on July 24 and locations could reopen if the seven counties show positive trends out of two of the three risk criteria. The counties must also submit a reopening plan that includes mitigation initiatives and compliance plans to the Department of Health and Human Services. During a press conference Thursday in Carson City, Sisolak said the action was taken due to the “excessive non-compliance” recently exhibited by both bar businesses and patrons with the state’s coronavirus health and safety protocols and guidelines. His concern with bars came after inspections by Nevada OSHA inspectors found that fewer than half of the bars observed were in compliance with the state’s health and safety guidelines. In addition to the rollback on bars in certain counties, all restaurants – along with breweries, distilleries, wineries, and any other establishments licensed to serve food – may not seat parties larger than six people, both indoors and outdoors. “These decisions are not easy to make, or decisions I take lightly,” Sisolak said. “One-fifth of businesses visited by OSHA inspectors are not in compliance with our measures, and this is unacceptable.” Nevada entered Phase 2 of its economic recovery at the end of May, and gaming – in both restricted locations and as part of the resort-casino industry – reopened on June 4 under strict health, safety, cleaning, and social distancing protocols. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.