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Opponents of masks in casinos responsible for policy change

Updated June 19, 2020 - 1:58 pm

As incredible as it seems, the contingent of people who vow to never set foot inside a Nevada casino as long as protective facial coverings are not required can thank those who refuse to enter if they’re forced to wear them.

They’re the ones responsible for last week’s big change in casino health and safety policy.

State Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said Wednesday that the alarming number of people refusing to wear masks in casinos led to the board’s decision to require people playing table games to have them.

Morgan said the new directive, involving play at blackjack, roulette, poker and craps tables, would help protect card dealers from the potential spread of COVID-19.

“In the first week (after the June 4 reopening of casinos), we wanted to take an approach of communicating and encouraging compliance and talk to licensees about what our expectations were, but in the second week, it became abundantly clear based on our agents’ observations that patrons’ usage of masks was significantly declining,” Morgan said Wednesday. “The lack of individual patron responsibility is disappointing — to say the least. So we have to do at least what we can to ensure that the gaming employees have some protection as well.”

So pro-mask abiders can thank anti-mask critics for the rule change. But the reality is neither side is completely happy because there’s still no rule saying every individual stepping into a casino must wear a mask.

Longtime reporters can always tell if a story they’ve produced is balanced when readers on both sides of an issue complain that the reporter favored the other side.

That occurred earlier last week before the policy switch when state officials affirmed that facial coverings would continue to be optional for patrons visiting the state’s casinos but that casino companies should continue to strongly encourage their use in public areas.

The email and social media replies to the story ran almost exactly half and half from those saying they won’t go into casinos unless masks are mandated and from those saying they won’t go if they are mandated.

Most responses made overt or veiled threats like “If I’m required to wear a mask, I’m not coming” and “Unless the public is required to wear a mask, I’m not coming.”

Many of them offered their own theories about why the current policy is in place. Some told me that if I’m so frightened about contracting COVID-19 then I shouldn’t go to a casino.

I’ll admit, the criticism stings a little, considering I’ve already lost a family member to the disease.

Nearly every email or tweet writer shared their own justification for whatever they do.

They also explained why Morgan and Gov. Steve Sisolak should either be roundly praised — or removed from their respective positions. The arguments I have received via email and social media on the merits of wearing a mask go back and forth like a political debate with no winner.

“Masks are actually more dangerous than the disease because they inhibit the flow of oxygen and force you to breathe in toxins.” (Right, that’s why medical professionals wear them all the time, say people on the other side.)

“Masks won’t stop the disease from spreading.” (Yeah, but they’ll certainly slow it down, they say.)

“It’s just the flu, and flu already kills thousands of people.” (So it makes sense not to protect yourself from either?)

“Hey, I don’t need to wear a mask because I figure when my number’s up, my number’s up.” (Maybe for you, but you don’t have to drag me along.)

“It’s all a big government conspiracy, there is no virus.” (Really? Prove it … just don’t send another email with theories and not facts.)

“I want to enjoy Vegas the way I always have, and that means not wearing a mask.” (Me too. Except I’ll still wear a mask to help protect you in the meantime.)

Because masks are still optional in casinos — except at table games — the arguments will continue to go to and fro with casino workers caught in no man’s land.

That is, unless the governor makes an announcement regarding mask wearing later today.

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

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