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Board investigating 111 cases of safety noncompliance at casinos

Updated July 1, 2020 - 8:35 pm

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has opened 111 regulatory cases to determine whether certain Nevada casinos have been noncompliant with the board’s new health and safety policies.

The cases come after the board’s enforcement division conducted 7,461 inspections and observations of nonrestricted and restricted licensees.

The board could take disciplinary action if it finds a licensee has been noncompliant, according to a Tuesday news release.

Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association, said its members are meeting or exceeding health and safety guidance from bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, local health authorities, gaming regulators and Nevada’s governor.

“Enforcing these measures is critical to maintaining a strict regulatory environment that’s required to ensure the integrity of the industry,” she said. “If notified by gaming regulators of an instance where improvements can be made, our members will quickly comply.”

Prioritizing health and safety

With nearly 2,500 licensees in Nevada, the board inspected and observed each three times on average since June 4.

About 1.5 percent of those inspections led to cases.

Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors, said that “in the scheme of things, that’s not a large number,” adding that the extent of the violations is unclear.

“But you don’t want to diminish everything,” he said. “The health and safety issues for guests and employees are important. Any violation needs to be taken seriously.”

But Greg Chase, founder and CEO of Las Vegas-based Experience Strategy Associates, believes any number higher than zero is too high.

“Health and safety should be the singular most important strategy that any company is thinking about right now,” he said via email. “We have an opportunity to intensify our focus on these standards as a community and state and partner to help across company and industry lines to do the right thing in the interest of public health and safety, not short-term independent company revenue wins.”

Disciplinary action possible

Josh Swissman, founding partner of The Strategy Organization in Las Vegas, said the cases show the Control Board and governor are serious about their new policies, including the latest directive that mandates masks must be worn by both employees and guests who aren’t eating, drinking or smoking.

“This will be a topic that the industry will certainly be watching closely,” he said.

The board declined to provide additional comment on what disciplinary action could look like. Last week, board member Terry Johnson said the board has yet to decide on “appropriate disciplinary action” for noncompliance and is considering suspending gaming licenses “or other activities.”

Chase added that these regulatory cases could make some customers turn sour.

“Once you start to lose trust with your customer and employee base, it is going to be extremely difficult to try to win that back, especially when there are so many other brand options in the same industry,” he said. “One could risk not only fines but brand capital leading to declines in revenue.”

The board is working alongside the Nevada OSHA, the Clark County Business License Department and the Las Vegas Business License Department to monitor and enforce gaming licensees’ compliance with the governor’s directives and the board’s health and safety policies.

“The Board has worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to monitor gaming licensees’ compliance with the Board’s Health and Safety Policies,” Chief of Enforcement James Taylor said in the release.

Any information the board receives on a licensee’s compliance is confidential.

The board’s new health and safety policies, many of which went into effect when casinos reopened on June 4, include requirements for casinos to allow for social distancing, make sure both employees and patrons wear masks in public areas, and limit the number of people inside the properties.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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