NIGA Convention and Tradeshow mask policy – SEE UPDATE BELOW Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · July 16, 2021 at 3:12 pm Publisher’s note (8:35pm ET): An update has been issued by NIGA which clarifies their mask policy. Publisher’s note (5:00pm ET): After this story was filed and published, CDC Gaming Reports was informed that NIGA will soon be releasing a statement clarifying their mask policy at next week’s Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention. We will send out an immediate update when we receive it. A day after a Los Angeles County health official encouraged his residents not to travel to locales with rising COVID-19 infections, like Las Vegas, the Southern Nevada Health District today recommended both unvaccinated and vaccinated people wear masks in crowded indoor public places, including casinos. The release prompted the National Indian Gaming Association to announce that mask-wearing will be mandatory for everyone when it hosts the Indian Gaming Tradeshow & Convention Monday through Thursday at the Caesars Forum Convention Center. Previously, NIGA announced mask wearing was required only for the unvaccinated — although vaccination status would not be checked — and masks were encouraged for the unvaccinated. Victor Rocha, the conference chairman, said Friday that people who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t come; they pose a risk to those who are vaccinated and others. “We’re putting out a press release today that masks are mandatory at the conference,” said Rocha, who took that a step further. “Native Americans had a higher rate of infections and now have a higher rate of vaccinations. If you’re not vaccinated, don’t come. Stay home and keep everyone safe.” Rocha said he doesn’t know what impact the L.A. County health official’s recommendation on travel to Las Vegas will have on the the trade show and convention. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend. “It’s a drag, and we’re talking about it,” Rocha said. “We’ll do everything we can to keep the place safe as an environment to do business. But we need to keep ourselves and our families safe in a pandemic. I’ll let you know on Monday whether it affects our attendance.” The recommendation to wear masks by the Southern Nevada Health District doesn’t mean the state will return to its mask mandate for indoor areas that was lifted in May when the federal CDC said masks were no longer needed for the vaccinated. Also in May, Nevada began lifting capacity restrictions in casinos that were as low as 25% last winter before increasing to 100%. The mask recommendations come as Nevada has been one of the nation’s leading states, along with Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana, for rising COVID-19 infections. On Thursday, Nevada had its largest single-day increase in five months. Los Angeles County, which has also seen a rise in infections, will reimpose its own mask mandate for the indoors starting Sunday. The Health District said mask wearing is encouraged, because anyone can have contact with others who aren’t fully vaccinated and a limited number of breakthrough infections for those vaccinated have been occurring. In addition, children under 12 who aren’t yet eligible for vaccinations are at risk for infection, along with the immunocompromised. “Using masks correctly has proven to be effective in helping to prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19,” the Health Department said in a statement. “With the rise in cases and slowing vaccine rates in Clark County, the Health District’s recommendation to wear masks in crowded public settings, including grocery stores, malls, large events, and casinos, is a step to fully utilize the tools we have available to stop the pandemic.” Brendan Bussmann, a partner with Global Market Advisors, said there won’t be any immediate impact on Las Vegas tourism from the recommendation to wear masks. It’s not a mandate, he said. “We have to see how these recommendations weigh and what the next steps are, but right now it’s time to watch and monitor and be prepared to react if it boils over,” Bussman said. “I don’t see anything (happening in terms of reimposing mandates and restrictions), but if it does, it definitely hurts the industry. We’re still early in recovery on this.” Josh Swissman, a gaming consultant and founder of The Strategy Organization, said people who don’t like wearing masks will postpone a trip to Las Vegas. Since it’s just a recommendation, however, he said it won’t have “too big of an impact,” especially if capacities are unaffected. “If capacities are altered, I think that’s when you’ll see some changes in visitation patterns,” Swissman said. “Any mandate in general — whether masks or capacity restrictions or not being able to go in certain venues and offer amenities or services or experiences — would really have a detrimental impact on visitation to the city and ultimately on economic recovery. That would be unfortunate, because we all worked so hard to get the city back where it is. You would hate to see things go the other way.” Swissman said he understands the mask recommendation to keep people safe, but the bigger message is the need to get vaccinated. Nearly all of the current cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are among those who aren’t vaccinated. The mask recommendation raises the issue for “people to be cognizant that like it or not, we’re still in a pandemic,” Bussmann said. “It’s about getting vaccinations into eligible people, while protecting those who are immunocompromised or kids under 12 who don’t have a vaccine.” People who are unvaccinated and have taken part in activities that put them at higher risk for COVID-19, such as traveling or attending mass gatherings should also get tested, the Health Department said.