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Masks remain optional for casino guests, control board head says

Updated June 15, 2020 - 6:31 pm

The state Gaming Control Board isn’t reconsidering requiring facial coverings for casino patrons, but would if new COVID-19 cases would overburden Southern Nevada hospitals.

Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said she is not looking to change direction, even as the Southern Nevada Health District’s acting chief health officer issued pleas for business customers to wear masks to protect employees.

“Per our current policy, all casino employees must be wearing masks. Licensees must have masks available for patrons and should strongly encourage patrons to wear them,” Morgan told the Review-Journal Monday. “If that data changes and our percentage of positive cases increase, I would consider additional measures to ensure our health care system is not overburdened.”

Fermin Leguen, the lead health care adviser on COVID-19 in Southern Nevada issued a statement Monday encouraging the use of facial coverings after seeing a noticeable decrease in the number of people wearing them and reports of fewer than half the amount of people inside casinos wearing them.

Statements

The Control Board developed its face-covering policies last month ahead of the June 4 casino reopening, after seven health care professionals, including Leguen, offered feedback.

Leguen said Monday businesses “have a moral obligation to protect this community,” adding that mask usage would contribute to decreasing the spread of the coronavirus.

“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. “I would ask our community and visitors to show the same regard for the public health and safety of the people who are providing you with services during these unprecedented times.”

In a visit to Wynn Las Vegas on June 5, the day after casinos reopened their doors after 78 days of being shuttered, Gov. Steve Sisolak said at least half of the visitors he saw when touring casinos that day had masks on.

“I’m pretty proud of that. I think that’s a pretty good start,” he said at the time, speaking behind a mask of his own.

Sisolak, in a late Monday press conference, reiterated that masks for casino customers would continue on a voluntary basis.

“Employees are all wearing masks and they’re going out of their way to encourage customers to wear masks,” Sisolak said. “They’re even offering incentives to get customers to wear masks. Some of them are more successful than others. We’re going to continue to pursue it right now on a voluntary basis.”

Sisolak did not cite any examples of companies using incentives to get customers to wear facial coverings.

Impact on visitors

While the Control Board also has not ordered casino patrons to wear a facial covering, individual properties can require it and some have ordered table game players to do that. Caesars Entertainment Corp. properties require players at tables at Caesars Palace, Harrah’s Las Vegas, Flamingo and The Linq Hotel to wear masks when they sit down to play.

Several casino industry analysts and Review-Journal reporters have observed inconsistencies in the following of social distancing recommendations and in the wearing of masks in casinos.

A frequent Las Vegas visitor who said he was in the city Friday said fewer people wearing masks discouraged him from spending more time in casinos.

Andre Kim of San Francisco arrived in Las Vegas on Friday for a quick trip at the Encore with his girlfriend.

While he said he wanted to help the city’s recovery by spending money in the casino, he ended up avoiding the casino floor for the majority of his trip.

“I really expected maybe 35 to 50 percent of the clientele to be in masks, and I just didn’t see the number to support the risk of being down there for extended periods of time,” he said. “The Encore is quiet, but there are so many people without face coverings. It definitely impacted how I spent my money here on this trip. … I was hoping to spend more.”

Kim thought the property did a good job of making masks available to guests and patrons but said guests weren’t taking the suggestion seriously enough. If masks were required, he believes casinos would make up for any lost room reservations through additional gambling revenue.

“I thought (Encore) went above and beyond making me feel safe. … (But) they need to make the message clearer and connect (wearing masks) to the ability to stay open,” he said. “I just wish more guests would do their part. I’m so worried about the staff here.”

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts Ltd. said Monday that every guest who enters Wynn Las Vegas and Encore is temperature screened and proactively offered a facial covering.

“Late last week, we instituted a program to expand the installation of protective Plexiglas barriers between guests and employees to nearly all table games” Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said in an email. “Any guest playing tables that does not have a protective barrier will be required to wear a face covering.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Review-Journal reporter Bailey Schulz contributed to this report.

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