Nevada gaming regulators to hear from health and safety experts as casino market nears potential reopening Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · May 21, 2020 at 7:13 am Insight into how Nevada plans to reopen casinos that have been silenced since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic could become clearer next week. The Gaming Control Board will hold a workshop hearing on Tuesday with health and safety experts involved in managing Nevada’s response to COVID-19, including the state’s director, hospital officials from Reno and Las Vegas, and several first responder representatives. Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said Wednesday that she scheduled the workshop, which will be streamed live on a virtual platform, “to ensure that the board has the best information available on how local health and public safety officials that have jurisdiction over Nevada’s two largest resort destinations have responded to COVID.” Nevada’s gaming industry, the largest in the nation, has been completely closed since March 18 as part of the shutdown of non-essential businesses ordered by Gov. Steve Sisolak in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan The closures have left several hundred thousand casino workers unemployed and all but eliminated Nevada gaming and non-gaming revenues for going on nine weeks. The neighboring states of California and Arizona have seen tribal casinos reopen in the past week, and regional gaming markets are beginning to reopen as well, including Louisiana on Monday and Mississippi, which is scheduled to open Thursday. Sisolak reopened a portion of Nevada’s economy on May 9 after the state had met several benchmarks established by health professionals. Casinos are expected to reopen in the next phase, although a date will be determined by Sisolak. Morgan said regulators will determine the plan of reopening, while the governor will set the date. Nevada gaming regulators have approved a series of health and safety guidelines gaming operators must follow in order to reopen properties. Operators are required to submit their own health and safety plans to the Control Board before reopening properties. Several casino companies – Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts, Station Casinos, and Boyd Gaming – have released all or portions of those plans publicly. The Las Vegas Culinary Union, which represents hotel and casino workers, has asked that all plans submitted to the Control Board be made public, but Morgan said the plans can’t be made public under state law. Morgan said it would be “beneficial to the board” to hear from health and safety experts. According to the agenda, Morgan has invited to the hearing Caleb Cage, the state’s COVID-19 response director; Mason Van Houweling, CEO of University Medical Center in Las Vegas; Fermin Leguen, the district health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District; Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck; Anthony Slonim, CEO of Renown Health in Reno; and Dean Dow, CEO of Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority in Washoe County. In the past month, several operators of Las Vegas Strip casinos have hinted at reopening plans, possibly by June, with some releasing ideas for a phased-in restart for multiple properties. Many casino operators had been accepting hotel reservations for dates in May, only to cancel the plans. Las Vegas Sands announced this week it was accepting reservations at the Venetian starting on June 1. The Gaming Control Board’s guidelines – a seven-page document dealing with resort casinos and locals’ gaming properties, and a four-page notice for operators with up to 15 slot machines, such as taverns, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets – establish initial requirements covering operations, customers and employees. 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. Casinos are also to follow state and medical requirements for the usage of medical masks and other personal protective equipment and should make those items available for resort guests and employees. It is up to the casino to decide if masks will be required; most Nevada casinos have to this point said they will require employees to wear masks. As with resort casinos, occupancy inside the smaller locations will be reduced by 50%, while social distancing measures in taverns will limit the number of bar top slot machines that can be used at a given time. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.