Nevada casino operators hope customers are ‘yearning to get back’ as reopening nears Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · May 28, 2020 at 7:47 am Nevada casino operators – large, small, and in between – didn’t waste time announcing reopening plans following word late Tuesday that June 4 would officially mark a return to business for the nation’s largest gaming state, sidelined since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. A CEO whose company has multiple Strip resorts, a single downtown Las Vegas casino executive, and a gaming pioneer in Lake Tahoe all delivered messages with parallel undertones: even with social distancing guidelines and health and safety precautions, Nevada’s casino industry is read to get back to business. “People are yearning to get back to living their lives, including relaxing by the pool and playing on the casino floor,” said Jonathan Jossel, CEO of the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas. “While we recognize the experience will be different than before, it is the start of bringing back fun and entertainment to people’s lives – now, during these stressful times, when they need it most.” This scene – an empty Las Vegas Strip – will disappear on June 4 Dianna Bennett, the owner of the Hard Rock Lake Tahoe, said the small gaming community next to picturesque Lake Tahoe is ready to reopen. “We are anxious to greet our guests and welcome everyone on our team back to the resort,” said Bennett, CEO of Paragon Gaming. “The support of our community during this pandemic has been amazing and we are proud to be an active part of the Northern Nevada gaming community.” MGM Resorts International acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle, in announcing the company would reopen MGM Grand Las Vegas, along with Bellagio and New York-New York, next Thursday, voiced similar sentiments. “Getting many of our employees back to work and welcoming guests through our doors once again will allow us to do what we do best – entertain,” Hornbuckle said. Governor Steve Sisolak said on Tuesday night that casinos would reopen as part of the second phase in restarting Nevada’s economy. He 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. The governor said that positive data trends in Nevada – state health officials said the percentage of those testing positive for COVID-19 has 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 Reopening guidelines The Gaming Control Board modified its health and safety guidelines for resuming gaming operations on Wednesday, implementing several of the suggestions offered a day earlier at a three-and-a-half-hour workshop with health and safety experts involved in managing Nevada’s response to COVID-19. Sandra Douglass Morgan, Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman(Connie Palen/UNLV Creative Services) “In conjunction with state and local health officials, the board will continue to ensure that best practices are used in the mitigation of COVID-19 and its effect on the resumption of gaming operations, and will issue further notices as appropriate,” Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said in the notice. The Control Board’s initial guidelines established requirements covering cleaning and disinfecting operations, social-distancing techniques, the offering of hand-sanitizing stations, guides that recommend frequent handwashing, and virus-screening temperature checks for customers and employees. Among the changes was a requirement that casinos provide face coverings for all visitors and encourage those patrons and guests to wear the masks while in public places on the property. Resort casinos are now required to screen all hotel guests for a potential high-temperature reading upon arrival or ensure a medical professional is on-site at the property. Hotel guests will now be required to complete a symptom self-assessment upon check-in. The resort must also have designated areas where hotel guests may be tested for COVID-19 and await their test results. The other changes would allow casino-resorts to submit alternative options for health and safety measures covering table games that will require approval by regulators. Under the current guidelines, casinos are required to limit the seating at table games – three players for blackjack, six for craps, four for roulette, and four for poker. Casinos are still limited to no more than 50% of their maximum occupancy capacity and must increase the space between their slot machines. The Control Board also added a section covering a casino operator’s commitment to responsible gaming measures. The section was sought by responsible gaming advocates, including former gaming executive Alan Feldman, now a Distinguished Fellow for Responsible Gaming at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. “During these unprecedented times over the last three months, many customers may have experienced significant life events related to the pandemic that operators need to be cognizant of and have plans in place to address,” Feldman said in a letter to the Nevada Gaming Commission earlier this month. Reopening Plans MGM will open three Strip properties, along with the non-gaming Signature Towers behind MGM Grand, on Thursday. Caesars Entertainment said it would move forward with reopening gaming and hotel operations at Caesars Palace and Flamingo Las Vegas. Caesars also expects to see several retail and dining outlets along The Linq Promenade reopen, as well as the High Roller Observation Wheel. Plaza Las Vegas blackjack table with three seats Wynn Resorts, in a statement, said it would fully open both Wynn Las Vegas and Encore on Thursday, including both hotel towers and all restaurants. “We are ready to provide our guests with a full Las Vegas experience,” said CEO Matt Maddox. The company was the first to release a full health and safety plan. Other Las Vegas Strip properties that have announced June 4 openings are Sahara, Treasure Island, and Venetian and Palazzo. “We remain resolute in ensuring both guests and team members can feel safe when they come to our resort,” said Sahara General Manager Paul Hobson. Boyd Gaming is opening six of its locals’ casinos – Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Aliante, Cannery, and Sam’s Town – while Station Casinos will reopen Red Rock Resort, Green Valley Ranch, Santa Fe Station, Boulder Station, Palace Station, and Sunset Station on June 4. The Palms, Texas Station, Fiesta Henderson, and Fiesta Rancho will remain closed. In addition to the Plaza, downtown casinos including The Strat, D Las Vegas, Golden Gate, California, and Fremont have also announced plans to open Thursday. In Northern Nevada, Grand Sierra Resort in Reno released an outline of its reopening protocols. “The health and safety of our team members and guests is our foremost priority,” said Shannon Keel, general manager for Grand Sierra. “We have instituted hundreds of procedures to enhance the cleanliness of our property.” Hard Rock Lake Tahoe said it is offering a hotel room promotion for $20.20 a night. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.