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Control Board requires masks at casino table games in Nevada

Updated June 18, 2020 - 10:34 am

The state Gaming Control Board late Wednesday ordered Nevada casinos to require players and spectators of most casino table and card games to wear protective face coverings.

The update to the board’s Health and Safety Policies required for the reopening of casinos during the COVID-19 pandemic was posted on the Control Board’s website after offices closed Wednesday.

Nevada casinos began reopening June 4 after being closed for 78 days since March 18 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said that board agents observed rapidly declining usage of masks in casinos and that the three-member board collectively agreed to issue the new order.

“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 evening.

Immediate change

The new rule takes effect immediately.

“Licensees must require patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition or shield between the dealer and each player,” the new guidance said. “This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators and any other person within 6 feet of any table or card game.”

The new rule applies to players of blackjack, roulette, craps, poker and other table games. All casino employees also are required to wear facial protection. Masks aren’t required of other casino patrons, including slot machine players, but casinos are required to offer them to customers and encourage their use.

“When you have a dealer that’s standing in front of up to five people and there are significant others behind them and then there are people watching for an hour at a time, it was concerning, not only for me but other board members as well,” Morgan said.

She noted that while most casino workers have the ability to move around their properties, dealers are confined to one location for an hour at a time and are exposed to hundreds of people every day.

“We were at least able to agree that face coverings (were needed) at table games, if there’s not going to be Plexiglas or any other kind of barrier,” she said. “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.”

Several properties have Plexiglas barriers between players and dealers, including Wynn Las Vegas and Encore and MGM Resorts International’s Bellagio.

Caesars already complies

Caesars Entertainment Corp. properties have required players at tables at Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, the Flamingo and The Linq Hotel to wear masks when they sit down to play.

Morgan told the Review-Journal on Monday that the board would consider changing its existing policy if coronavirus data trends changed and the percentage of positive cases increased.

“I would consider additional measures to ensure our health care system is not overburdened,” she said at the time.

Fermin Leguen, the lead health care adviser on COVID-19 in Southern Nevada, issued a statement Monday morning encouraging the use of facial coverings and noting that there had been a decline in the use of protective masks. He said businesspeople “have a moral obligation to protect this community.”

“Unfortunately, as more businesses are opening and people are beginning to resume their normal activities, it is easy to forget that we are still responding to a pandemic and precautions need to be taken,” Leguen said. “Many businesses have taken proactive measures to ensure the safety of their employees and their guests. While some of these measures have been mandated many of them have been voluntary and go beyond what is required.”

Earlier Wednesday, Clark County recorded 161 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths over the preceding day, according to data posted by the Southern Nevada Health District.

The new cases announced by the district raised the total for the county to 9,318, and the fatalities pushed the death toll to 386.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who has praised Morgan for moving quickly to respond to rapidly changing conditions, said Monday that mask-wearing was going to remain voluntary, but he also said reconsideration would be based on health data.

Massachusetts rules

Morgan said actions taken Wednesday by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission had nothing to do with the decision to require masks at table games.

That commission’s reopening plan, one of the most restrictive in the country, will require Plexiglas barriers at what table games will be allowed to be played. Massachusetts has no reopening date scheduled, but regulators agreed Wednesday that all casino patrons would have to wear masks and 6-foot barriers would have to be installed for blackjack games. When that state’s three casinos open, craps, roulette and poker will be temporarily banned.

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

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