Nevada regulators OK taverns use of stand-alone slots, ‘buddy bars’ during COVID-19 Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · August 17, 2020 at 7:30 am Nevada gaming regulators have formally allowed tavern and bar operators to utilize stand-alone slot machines, although the governor’s directive that closed bar top areas in the state’s largest counties remains in effect. In a notice posted Friday afternoon, the Gaming Control Board said restricted gaming operators – locations with 15 or fewer slot machines – can have stand-alone slot machines that touch the bar top areas, in order to connect with the location’s slot management system. Slot machines placed in “buddy bars,” a term that describes sit-down tabletop slot areas, can also be utilized. However, slots embedded in bar tops must remain unavailable for play. The notice is the latest message to restricted gaming operators, a large portion of whom saw their slots silenced on July 10 after Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the standalone bars and bar top areas in taverns and restaurants closed in seven counties in response to a surge in positive coronavirus cases. When he ordered the closure, Sisolak said bars had violated social distancing and health and safety guidelines. However, during a July 27 press conference, Sisolak admitted closing all bars and bar tops “may not have been the fairest way to do it.” Tavern operators were given permission by county and municipal governments to remove slot machines from their bar tops and place the games inside traditional slot machine cabinets. However, the relief solution hasn’t been a workable option for some tavern operators, due to space limitations and overhead costs associated with relocating the games. On Friday, Sisolak delayed implementation of additional COVID-19 mitigation measures in six counties, including Clark (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno), due to the delays with the approval of individual action plans. The closures of bar tops will remain in place for at least another week. Meanwhile, tavern owners are awaiting a judge’s ruling on a lawsuit filed in Clark County by the operators of 62 taverns who are seeking to overturn Sisolak’s closure of bar tops. The judge heard arguments in a motion to stay the governor’s directive on Thursday but has not issued a decision. Nevada has 2,451 restricted gaming locations that collectively operate some 17,600 slot machines. Clark County alone accounts for more than 1,600 of the restricted gaming businesses, with more than 13,200 slot machines, according to the Gaming Control Board. Grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores, many of which also have restricted gaming slot machines, were not affected by the governor’s directive. In its notice Friday, the Control Board said tavern operators that relocated their slot machines much still comply with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines for health, safety, and cleaning, as well as social distancing protocols. “This includes, without limitation, spacing slot machines at least six feet apart or complying with an alternate plan approved by the board, and the cleaning and disinfection of each machine and any (plexiglass) partitions or barriers between machines after each use by a patron,” the board said in the notice. “The use of such partitions or barriers is highly encouraged.” The regulators also added that supervision over slot machines be maintained, electrical and data communication wiring for the slot machines and associated systems must be safeguarded and secured, and the operators need to provide a new floor diagram showing where the games are located. Nevada taxes restricted gaming locations through quarterly and annual fees per machine, far different than casinos, which pay 6.75% monthly on taxable gaming revenue in excess of $134,000. 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. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.