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Grand Sierra Resort gets regulatory complaint on coronavirus safety

Updated August 10, 2020 - 2:55 pm

Grand Sierra Resort, the 2,000-room Reno hotel that is a sister property to Sahara Las Vegas, has received a regulatory complaint from the state Gaming Control Board for failure to comply with coronavirus safety protocols.

The board issued the complaint Friday, two days after filing a similar complaint against Sahara Las Vegas. Both resorts are operated by The Meruelo Group.

While the complaint against the Sahara primarily dealt with social distancing procedures and an incident in which more than the allowed 50 people gathered for a lunch event, the complaint against the Grand Sierra Resort was mostly about the resort’s failure to require casino patrons to wear a facial covering.

“We take our duties as a licensed gaming operator very seriously and work continuously to adhere to the health and safety standards set forth by the governor and Nevada Gaming Commission,” the company said in a statement. “As stated in the Nevada Gaming Control Board filing, we acknowledged and immediately corrected conditions related to state-mandated mask wearing requirements and social distancing protocols inside the resort.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission has ultimate authority on whether a licensee would be fined or have its license suspended or revoked after a complaint originating from the Control Board.

The three-count complaint against GSR listed observations by Control Board agents on three different dates.

According to the complaint document, drafted on the Control Board’s behalf by the Attorney General’s Office, an agent visited the resort June 19 and observed two casino patrons gambling at separate table games not wearing protective masks and resort employees failed to correct the situation.

On July 2, an agent observed about 40 people either failing to wear masks or wearing them improperly without resort intervention.

On July 31, agents observed at least 34 people not wearing masks or wearing them improperly and four GSR supervisors interacted with them and failed to do anything about it.

Also on July 31, a queue of about 50 people waiting to get on an elevator failed to observe proper social distancing measures.

And, in a third July 31 observation, an agent saw a GSR marketing promotion host addressing patrons while not wearing a mask.

The case against the Grand Sierra Resort was the sixth formal complaint filed by the Control Board. Four of the other five are against smaller properties in rural Nevada with the fifth being the one filed against the Sahara last week.

Late last month, the Control Board announced that there were 156 active investigations underway resulting from 10,135 agent inspections and observations involving noncompliance with the state’s health and safety policies. The investigations that result in formal complaints usually come against properties that continue to see noncompliance after initial investigations.

After the Sahara filings last week, two gaming industry analysts based in Las Vegas said the regulators were right to step in to protect the industry and that they wouldn’t be surprised to see more cases filed.

“I don’t know what the end result of this particular complaint will be, but it certainly puts everyone on notice,” said Nehme Abouzeid, president and founder of LaunchVegas LLC, a professional services firm.

Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors LLC, said he expects the Sahara case to be the first of many in Las Vegas.

“It’s uncharted territory,” he said. “That’s why you want to make sure that any action that the board does need to take becomes uniform across all operators and that you take that into account, which is why we may see more actions like this coming in the next few days.”

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

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