Casinos Getting Health And Safety Plans Ready For Reopening

Written By Marc Meltzer on May 5, 2020
Health And Safety

Nevada casino operators are already sharing health and safety plans for when Gov. Steve Sisolak allows them to reopen. Wynn Las Vegas was the first casino operator in Nevada to create a health and safety plan. Las Vegas Sands followed that with the release of the Venetian Clean plan. On Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Control Board will hold a special hearing for all casino operators to submit new health and safety plans.

Last week the Gaming Control Board released the minimum requirements for health and safety policies for the resumption of gaming operations. This is a guideline for casino operators to follow as they create their plans. The goal is for casinos “to diminish personal contact and increase the level of disinfection in high-use areas.”

Getting Started

Prior to reopening, each casino must clean and disinfect all of its hard and soft surfaces in accordance with the guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s the CDC’s Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility policy for anyone curious.

Additionally, casinos must ensure its employees are adequately trained on proper cleaning and disinfecting procedures set forth in the CDC’s guidance. All employees must understand how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. In other words, employees must understand proper social distancing, when to wash hands, and how to not spread germs at work.

New Casino Floor Layouts

As expected, Nevada casinos will operate differently when they reopen. The changes start right in the center of the gaming area. During an earnings call last week, MGM Resorts acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle mentioned that the company is already changing the layout of its casinos when they reopen. MGM Resorts will release its health and safety plan in the next couple of weeks.

Some rules casino operators will have to adhere to will be only allowing no more than 50% of capacity in gaming areas. Table games will have a different feel when casinos reopen. There will be different limits to the number of players for every table game:

  • Blackjack: Three (3) players per table
  • Craps: Six (6) players per table
  • Roulette: Four (4) players per table
  • Poker: Four (4) players per table

So-called carnival games such as 3 Card Poker and Let It Ride have similar tables as blackjack so they should only have seating for three players. The hearing should confirm that on Thursday.

Video poker and slot machine areas must also adhere to not having more than 50% of capacity. The Gaming Control Board recommends that casinos only have chairs in front of every other gaming machines. This would allow guests to keep within proper social distancing. Prior to closing some casinos were able to turn off every other machine so that players wouldn’t play next to one another.

Keeping Casinos Clean

Social distancing helps reduce the spread of germs from the mouth. However, it doesn’t help with the cleanliness of the casino and items used in the casino. There are plenty of policy recommendations for this as well:

  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes should be available to all casino employees and guests. Some casinos started installing these stations prior to closing.
  • Plans must address how gaming machines, devices, and chairs will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
  • There’s a lot to keep clean in table game pits. The plans should ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of the following items: table games, rails, chairs, dice, card shoes, shufflers, roulette wheels, Pai Gow tiles, pit podiums, blackjack discard holders, and toke boxes when a new player or employee comes into contact with any of the gaming equipment.
  • Plans must address how the race & sportsbook, and any other gaming area (Keno, Bingo, etc.) will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis. Much like the rest of the casino floor these areas must also have plans for social distancing and have hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes for employees and guests.
  • The plans should also address how to disinfect cards and chips. No matter how frequently this happens there will still be a time when humans actually touch the cards and chips.

Customer confidence that all areas of a casino are clean will go a long way in restoring confidence for potential customers. This is the case for all businesses but casinos are large and often busy. Casinos are large businesses with many touchpoints and this will be of the utmost importance in making guests feel comfortable returning.

Non-Gaming Health And Safety Requirements

The gaming area is one of the biggest concerns for keeping casinos clean. However, casinos in Nevada can be huge with multiple venues beyond where people gamble. Casino operators must have a plan to ensure the health and safety of guests elsewhere at the properties.

Bars and restaurants will open with reduced capacity to ensure proper social distancing. During the recent earnings call, Hornbuckle mentioned that MGM Resorts is also looking at new takeout options for some restaurants at its properties.

Similarly, there will have to be social distance markers anywhere there might be a line to wait. Plans must include a process for waiting at hotel front desks, players clubs, and concierge desks. All retail outlets will adhere to governmental protocols as well.

Entertainment is a major part of the casino experience. Nightclubs and dayclubs will not be able to open when casinos first reopen for business. Smaller shows should return sooner than larger shows but that will be planned for on a later date.

Casinos will be able to open pools for the summer. The big change here is that pool seating should be configured for appropriate social distancing. No surprise here.

The Casino Experience Will Be Different

Everyone wants to know when they can get into a casino to relive previous great experiences. Things won’t be quiet the same when Nevada casinos reopen.

The new casino experience will be similar to 4 am on a Wednesday instead of the frantic chaos of a Saturday evening. Spending time in a casino can be fun anytime but the experiences are drastically different.

Visiting a casino when capacity is limited can be fantastic. There’s always room to eat, drink, and gamble. However, there’s much less social interaction. The exchanges between guests are what can make visiting a casino more memorable.

The most important thing about casinos, and all businesses, reopening is the safety of customers. The experience might change but being healthy and safe will allow guests to find a new way to enjoy casinos once again.

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Marc Meltzer

Marc grew up on the mean streets of the South Bronx. He’s the rare combination of Yankees and Jets fan which explains his often contrarian point of view. Marc is a freelance writer and social media consultant. Writing about steak, booze, gambling and Las Vegas is a tough job but somebody has to do it.

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