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Nevada casinos ‘getting back to normalcy’ with lifting of mask mandate

Updated February 11, 2022 - 7:49 pm

Las Vegas casinos moved swiftly after Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the immediate end of Nevada’s indoor mask mandate Thursday morning, taking down signs that had stood as a reminder to guests to keep their faces covered.

“It’s really an exciting day. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since we started this process,” Stephen Thayer, general manager of The Strat, said Thursday following the governor’s announcement. “We’re not out of the pandemic yet, but this is a great start to getting back to normalcy.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board followed suit Thursday after the governor’s announcement, issuing new guidance to gaming operators that those inside casinos no longer need to wear a mask.

“Pursuant to Gov. Sisolak’s Emergency Directive 052, effective immediately, individuals are no longer required to wear masks in public indoor settings in licensed gaming establishments, unless a local jurisdiction still imposes such a requirement,” the notice from Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said. “If a licensee is subject to a local jurisdiction’s requirement relating to masks, the board expects full compliance from licensees.”

The move to rescind the mandate could provide an immediate boost to tourism in the state, Thayer said, especially with the Super Bowl festivities just days away. And it should help fuel the return of big conventions and international travel, he added.

The end of the mandate also means that employees will no longer have to tell guests to put their masks on, something that Thayer said comes as a big relief for workers.

“Nobody wants to be the mask police and tell people to put it up when they’re having a good time,” Thayer said. “This allows our employees to focus back on what we do best here in Las Vegas and here at The Strat, focusing on that customer experience and guest service.”

Thayer also echoed comments made by the governor in his announcement asking for people to be kind to those who choose to wear a mask in public.

“We want to accommodate and be respectful to those who want to wear masks, employees or guests. Everybody has a different set of expectations in what they feel comfortable doing and we want to be respectful of that,” he said.

In a statement, the Culinary Union Local 226, which represents approximately 60,000 hospitality workers in Nevada, said that some employers are still requiring workers to mask, and urged the public to respect those who wear them by choice.

“If any workers want to continue wearing their mask while at work, that is their right and they should be treated with understanding and respect,” the union said.

Other sources within the gaming and tourism industries reacted positively to Sisolak’s Thursday announcement.

“This is an important step forward, and we applaud the governor’s action,” said Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association. “We’re pleased to see the health metrics improving and recognize the significance of today’s announcement as further progress toward a return to normalcy and Nevada’s full economic recovery. As always, the resort industry will continue to comply with all state and local COVID requirements and guidance to ensure the health and safety of its employees and guests.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority also weighed in.

“We appreciate Gov. Sisolak’s leadership in working with his medical advisory team and analyzing data to allow the state to rescind the mask mandate,” said Lori Kraft, senior vice president of communications with the LVCVA.

In a letter to the company’s employees, MGM CEO and President Bill Hornbuckle announced that the company had updated its policies to reflect that masks are no longer required at any of its resort properties in Nevada, Mississippi, Ohio, New Jersey and New York.

Hornbuckle wrote that masks will still be made available for those who wish to still wear them.

“Like you, I’m excited to see things beginning to return to normal after more than two long years,” Hornbuckle wrote. “I’m also excited to see your faces again, as well as the faces of our guests. It’s been too long.”

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

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