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Nevada regulators push for licensees to get workers vaccinated

The Nevada Gaming Control Board wants more hospitality workers to get vaccinated before it relaxes occupancy restrictions.

The state’s top gaming regulatory body sent a notice to licensed casino operators on Friday, saying it would consider increasing floor occupancy only for licensees that have taken “measurable and material steps to vaccinate, and thereby, protect their workforce, visitors, and the community.”

Nevada casinos are currently operating at 50 percent occupancy under state orders, but the control board is set to gain the authority to set occupancy limits for gaming floors starting May 1.

Improving low vaccination rates

The notice, signed by control board chair Brin Gibson and Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman John Moran, makes clear that the board is concerned about a possible COVID-19 resurgence in Nevada.

Nevada’s hospitality workforce has a “relatively low degree of vaccination penetration,” the notice says, despite getting the green light to receive shots on March 11.

The state’s two-week coronavirus test positivity rate remained unchanged for the fifth day in a row on Friday, signaling that the monthslong decline in the key COVID-19 metric is stalling.

Other states have seen recent surges in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, leading local public health officials to say they are concerned that Nevada could see another upturn as well.

The board said viral surges are a continuing threat to the gaming industry’s economic health, the well-being of hospitality workers and the state as a whole.

“They threaten the hard-fought efforts undertaken over the last year to safely reopen … making vaccination efforts an indispensable element in the Board’s and Commission’s ongoing COVID-19 strategy,” the notice reads.

Efforts by operators

The board said getting more hospitality workers shots in arms could help the gaming industry and community’s recovery, since the frontline casino workers are “critically positioned” to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

The letter also reminds operators that a license is “a revocable privilege, not a right,” and that regulators will take action against operators that place any short-term gains in violation of emergency directives or safety standards above the well-being of its workforce.

Both the board and commission urged licensees to be proactive and arrange vaccination opportunities for employees.

So far, five local casino operators have taken steps to open in-house vaccination clinics for employees: MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment Inc., Red Rock Resorts Inc., Las Vegas Sands Corp. and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

The board also advocated for paid time off to staff for vaccination appointments, arranging transportation for employees to public vaccination sites, agreements with pharmacy partners and partnerships with private vendors that can administer vaccines on site.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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