Nevada’s bars and bars inside restaurants, to close Friday following spike in coronavirus cases Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · July 10, 2020 at 5:14 am The bulk of Nevada’s restricted gaming industry – locations with 15 or fewer slot machines – will shut down Friday night under a directive by the state’s governor in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases. In a late Thursday afternoon press conference in Carson City, Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in certain counties – including the Clark and Washoe Counties which include the Las Vegas Valley and Reno – will close 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. In addition, restaurants and taverns will have to close their bar areas and limit their dining capacity to 50 percent. The vast majority of restricted gaming locations – bars, taverns, and restaurants – have their slot machines located in bar tops. The directive will be officially released Friday, but Sisolak spokeswoman Meghin Delaney confirmed Thursday that bars inside Nevada’s resort casinos in the counties affected by the order will also have to close. “Bars inside casinos in the counties that must close (their) bars will have to close,” Delaney said in an email. “Patrons can get drinks in restaurants, but can’t sit at a bar in a casino and get a drink.” Many casino bars, especially locals’ gaming properties, have slot machines embedded into the bar tops. Nevada has nearly 2,000 restricted gaming locations – taverns, bars, and restaurants, as well as grocery, drug, and convenience stores – which collectively had 19,054 slot machines in operation statewide, according to a March 31 quarterly report from the Gaming Control Board. The facilities are not taxed on gaming revenues, but pay quarterly and annual fees based on the number of slot machines. The locations largely cater to a heavy locals’ customer base. 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. Sisolak said discussions with state and federal health officials caused him to roll back portions of his phased reopenings. “While discussing Nevada’s data, and using other state’s data as guides, the federal representatives advised that if Nevada did not take swift policy action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state, we would likely soon be in a precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients in the very near future,” Sisolak said. 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. Many restricted gaming license holders took steps to comply with health and safety directives in order to keep the maximum number of games in operation, such as spacing out games on larger bars, adding plexiglass between games, and instituting the frequent cleaning of machines and the gaming area. These measures notwithstanding, new cases of COVID-19 continued to climb. On June 29 Sisolak issued a new directive stating that Phase 2 would continue through the end of July and mandating the use of facial coverings or masks in public locations, including inside casinos and other gaming properties. Last week, the Gaming Control Board said its enforcement agents had opened 111 regulatory cases statewide relating to non-compliance with the agency’s health and safety policies. In a statement, the Board said agents conducted 1,453 inspections and observations of nonrestricted licensees and 6,008 inspections and observations of restricted licensees since June 4. “Non-compliance with federal, state, local laws, or the health and safety policies constitute a violation of Nevada Gaming Commission Regulation 5.011, which may result in the Board taking disciplinary action against a non-compliant licensee,” Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said in the July 1 statement. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.