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Las Vegas casinos to reopen Thursday with many unanswered questions

The date has been set. The electronic “Welcome back!” signs have been programmed. The reservations have been made.

Nevada casinos will reopen Thursday, and it won’t be long before we see exactly how prepared we are.

There are many unanswered questions, which is unfortunate because everybody wants the Great Return from the Great Shutdown to be perfect.

It’s hard to pin the blame on any one person for the clumsy effort to begin restoring the city to what we want it to be. But much of it’s going to land in the lap of Gov. Steve Sisolak. The state Gaming Control Board probably will take a little heat, too.

Minutes after the board updated its health and safety policies, it added some requirements that left licensees scrambling to change the reopening plans that were delivered Wednesday.

The new requirements included an order for resorts to provide a holding area for people who aren’t cleared to check in to a hotel. That means guests who may have flown thousands of miles to go to their favorite Las Vegas resort instead will be counseled by a health professional who isn’t their doctor and possibly shuttled off to a nongaming hotel for quarantine.

The whole redirection of guests to other hotels is a mystery. When health professionals explained the process to the Control Board last week, they didn’t identify the hotels that will be used to quarantine tourists. The Control Board won’t identify them, and University Medical Center isn’t sharing the names of the hotels, either.

If you want to do a cheaper Vegas getaway and decide to stay at Hotel X instead of one of the megaresorts on the Strip, would you want to land in a place filled with coronavirus quarantines? I think people need to know about that.

It’s also a little baffling that health professionals for 3½ hours shared their best ideas for keeping resort workers and the public safe without mentioning smoking.

The Review-Journal reported last week that researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford and UCLA all concurred that smoking — both secondhand smoke inhaled by patrons and employees and the acts of touching cigarettes, lips, slot machines, dice, cards and chips — can spread the virus.

Christine Thompson, cancer prevention programs manager for the Nevada Cancer Coalition, testified before the Nevada Gaming Commission in early May that “smokers are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and having complications from the virus.”

Chairwoman Sandra Morgan asked her legal counsel whether the board had the authority to ban smoking. Deputy Attorney General Darlene Caruso said it couldn’t because it is a legislative matter. That raises the question of whether anyone suggested it to Sisolak, who could impose a ban by executive order.

The email I’ve received from readers is running at 80 percent opposed to smoking in reopened casinos vs. 20 percent who want smoking allowed.

There also are unanswered questions about why casino guests aren’t required to wear a face covering when in public areas inside casinos. The Control Board’s directive to licensees says that a property’s reopening plan “must provide for the availability of face masks or cloth face coverings for patrons and guests upon request” and that “licensees should encourage patrons and guests to wear face masks or cloth face coverings while in public places on the licensee’s property.”

So it’s a suggestion, not a requirement.

Some front-line casino workers fear for their safety in the workplace.

So what will casinos look like? I’m guessing it’s not going to be much different than a trip to the grocery store, where about half the customers wear face coverings.

Many Las Vegas visitors lose all inhibitions when they come here, as if being in Las Vegas somehow gives them permission to do whatever they like. I expect plenty of rule-breaking when casinos reopen, and we all need to adjust our expectations if we think all tourists are going to honor social distancing and other safety precautions.

Hopefully sometime soon, all of us can get back to normal in our casinos.

I can’t wait for that day.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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