weather icon Clear

Some casinos to reopen with plexiglass separators, digital restaurant menus

Updated June 3, 2020 - 2:14 pm

Hand sanitizer dispensers are the first thing you see walking into Bellagio’s main entrance.

They’re also at the front desk. Inside restaurants. Scattered across the casino floor’s table games.

With casinos gearing up to reopen Thursday — some as early as 12:01 a.m. — properties are in the full swing of preparation efforts. Tours at Suncoast, The Strat and Bellagio provided a sneak peek at what Nevada casinos’ new health and safety protocols will look like. It has yet to be seen how many guests will be there to witness the new protocols firsthand this week.

A look inside the properties

The Nevada Gaming Control Board has issued a series of requirements all casinos must uphold, including limited seating to table games and temperature screenings for resort guests.

Even so, the implementation of these rules looks different across casinos.

A Tuesday tour of Suncoast, set to open 12:01 a.m. Thursday, showed how Boyd Gaming Corp. plans to handle thermal screenings.

Guests walk in, loop their way around signs advising them to keep their distance and stay home if they feel sick, and pass by a thermal imaging camera.

If their temperature is at below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they’re OK to enter. If it’s above, an alarm will sound and they’ll get a chance to cool down and have their temperature screened again with a handheld device. If they still show to have a fever, they won’t be allowed inside.

Guests are also asked a series of questions on whether they’ve been exposed to the virus or show any symptoms.

Spokesman David Strow said other markets where Boyd has already reopened casinos — including Louisiana and Mississippi — report that the cameras are not showing any false positives. Each set up costs roughly $5,000.

“We’re pretty confident this is not going to create an issue, even if it gets warm (outside),” he said.

At MGM Resort International’s Bellagio resort and casino, set to open at 10 a.m. Thursday, plexiglass could be seen throughout the property Monday: at the front desk, atop table games, even separating booths inside restaurants.

Along with various hand-sanitizing stations, hand-washing stations have been installed throughout the property, each plugged into the building’s water supply system.

“You’ve got the touchless soap, you’ve got the touchless paper towel dispensers. On some of these you’ll have the mask dispensers, you’ll have glove dispensers,” MGM Vice President of Administration and Head of Health and Safety Strategy John Flynn said. “We wanted to bring hand-washing, first and foremost, to the front of everyone’s minds.”

MGM’s senior vice president of food and beverage strategy, Dominique Bertolone, used Bellagio’s Sadelle’s Cafe as an example of changes in restaurants.

“Our goal was to continue to provide a contactless experience,” he said. “But we also wanted to ensure that food and beverage remains fun, and we created some wow moments.”

Technology, specifically QR codes, will play a large role in the new experience. Guests arriving at a restaurant or lounge can get on a virtual wait-list for a table or a seat at the bar by scanning a QR code with their phones, then receive a text when their seats are ready. Once seated, they’ll be presented with a similar code that brings up the menu on their phones. At more casual spots, like Sadelle’s, the menu code will be printed on a coaster. At more upscale eateries, the presentation will be a little different.

“In our contemporary and fine dining (restaurants), we are creating a card that will be personalized by the celebrity chef, welcoming you back, with a little message and the QR code,” Bertolone says. “That’s something that is important for us, as we wanted to create some of the wow moments.”

Other measures on display on Monday included custom-branded masks for workers, signs that indicate an area or a table had been sanitized, and a “bartender safe zone” behind the bar where bartenders can prepare cocktails away from guests. Some restaurants will offer disposable cases for storing face masks while you eat.

Similar measures will be found at other MGM properties — including New York-New York and the MGM Grand, which are also set to open Thursday.

“Health and safety is first and foremost,” Flynn said. “Getting this done right and doing this methodically is of paramount importance to us. ”

Strow echoed a similar sentiment.

“The guest experience is going to change. It has to,” he said. “We’re going to reopen safely, we’re going to have to take certain precautions such as this to make sure we are keeping everybody health and safe. … At the end of the day that’s the most important thing we can do right now.”

He added that Boyd will strongly encourage visitors to wear masks, and has so far purchased more than 3 million to share.

“We are prepared for this, and we’re hopeful that folks will take us up on this as they come and visit this property,” Strow said. “The last thing anybody in this community wants to see is a resurgence. And so we know that by taking the measures we are taking today, that’s an investment in reopening the city safely.”

The Strat

On MGM’s casino floor, rows of slot machines had every other machine turned off to make sure guests keep their distance.

Meanwhile, Golden Entertainment Corp.’s Strat had a different approach to separating gamblers: Every other chair has been removed so that players can rearrange chairs to play the games they like. Suncoast took a similar approach.

All three properties have social distancing reminders, but The Strat tried to have some fun with the floor stickers near the front desk, with each asking or answering trivia questions, such as “When did the skypod open?” and “How many times have guests taken the leap at Skyjump?”

The check-in process is also being shaken up at the two properties.

An automatic counter makes sure The Strat doesn’t surpass 50 percent occupancy levels. Once resort guests walk in, they’re directed to have their temperature taken with a handheld thermal scanner.

After the temperature screen, guests can use self check-in kiosks with antimicrobial sheets covering the screens or visit a front desk agent separated with plexiglass. Kiosks will be sanitized after each use.

At Bellagio, guests have the option to check in with a staff member at a plexiglass-covered front desk or check in themselves with their mobile device. QR codes inside the building help guests find the check-in app, and a room key is sent directly to their smartphone. For those who need extra room keys, they can prepare one themselves with a machine at the front desk.

“We’ve really reinvigorated how we handle the check-in process,” MGM Vice President of Hotel Operations Andy Meese said. “With everything going on right now and the focus on health and safety, we wanted to make sure we had a contactless experience for our guests when we reopened the property.”

Flynn didn’t say how much the additional plexiglass, washing stations and other measures cost MGM.

“When it comes to health and safety, when it comes to trust and confidence both in your employees and your guests, there isn’t a price you can put on that, especially when you’re trying to get everybody back to work.”

The Strat also had measures that went beyond the Control Board’s requirements. For example, General Manager and Vice President Stephen Thayer said a disinfectant fogger will be used to spread antibacterial spray on items on the casino floor and in restaurants every night to get in “all the cracks and crevices.”

He hopes all of these new protocols will help ward off a second wave of the virus.

“You can’t be doing something like this and say (a second wave is) not in the back of your mind,” Thayer said. “But I feel good about the preparation that we’ve had, and I feel that we’ve had great cooperation with the division of gaming and the state. I think we’re at a good spot. I think we’re doing everything we can to create that environment that won’t be putting people at risk.”

Good, clean fun

Flynn said reopening preparations at MGM started about two months ago. A large number of staff members started coming back Monday morning, although an MGM representative wasn’t able to say how many staff members are returning to work at this point.

Bellagio will keep occupancy levels to 30 percent or less for safety reasons — far below the 93.4 percent occupancy that Strip casinos saw in June 2019, according to data from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Thayer said The Strat, located near the north end of the Strip, started bringing back employees a week ago and expects to bring 600 to 700 employees — about 40 percent of what it had before — back for its first reopening phase.

“As volumes start picking up a little bit, we plan on bringing back as many as we can,” he said. For the employees who have returned, “it’s like friends reuniting. We haven’t seen each other in forever. It’s a lot of far-distance hugs. … People are just excited to get back to work and ready to go.”

Strow said Boyd started bringing back “several thousand” employees, and has so far reopened 12 casinos across the U.S. Twenty-one of the company’s 29 properties are set to open by June 4.

“We’ve got a lot of practice (reopening) under our belt, and so we’ve gotten pretty good at this process,” Strow said. “We’re confident we’ll be able to operate pretty smoothly come June 4.”

The Strat will have one final cleaning and disinfecting process before letting in guests at 8 a.m. Thursday.

The property has no self-restrictions on how many rooms it will fill, and expects 35 percent to 40 percent occupancy during the weekend. Thayer expects a slow week compared with what staff is used to but said business is expected to ramp up quickly, adding that he believes business will be “pretty strong” on July 4 weekend.

“The word has got to get out, and people have to experience it,” he said. “We want to make sure that it’s controlled, it’s done right, but it’s still fun.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. Staff writer Al Mancini contributed to this report.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas gives notice of potential layoffs - VIDEO
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sent the state notice of potential layoffs at the 3,000-room property on the Las Vegas Strip.
Is Nevada the ‘gold standard’ for casino coronavirus response? - Video
Whenever experts begin comparing gaming jurisdictions, you’re bound to hear the phrase “gold standard” dropped in the conversation. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Resorts World Las Vegas activates 100,000-square-foot LED screen - VIDEO
Resorts World Las Vegas activated its 100,000-square-foot LED screen on its west tower on Independence Day, showing a digital fireworks display. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Station Casinos president dies in watercraft accident - VIDEO
Richard Haskins, president of Red Rock Resorts Inc. and Station Casinos, died Saturday in a watercraft accident in Michigan, according to a statement released by the company. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hockey arena opponents erred in ballot initiative - Video
Opponents of a minor league hockey arena in Henderson collected enough verified signatures to put the disputed project on the November ballot, but then a problem emerged: A procedural error on the petition.
Layoffs at 'The Drew' force staff to sue owner
Rj Business reporter Eli Segall talks about the lawsuit and the future of the unfinished hotel and casino.
Vegas tourists react to mask mandate - VIDEO
Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Wednesday a mandate to wear face masks starting Friday. Down on the Las Vegas Strip tourists reacted on camera to the news. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA #VegasSmart social media campaign brings awareness to wearing a mask - Video
Now that Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced requirements to wear masks in public settings in the state, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will attempt to deliver the message to prospective visitors via their #VegasSmart social media campaign. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's unemployment crisis - Video
Thousands of jobless workers turned to the state for payments after the COVID-19 shutdown in March. DETR has struggled to handle record claims. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars mandates guests to wear masks
Guests at Caesars Entertainment Corp. properties will be required to wear masks while inside its properties, effective immediately.
MGM Grand and Aria are reopening pool clubs - Video
MGM Grand’s Wet Republic Ultra Pool and Aria’s Liquid Pool Lounge plan to open July 2, according to a Wednesday statement from MGM Resorts International and Hakkasan Group. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Survey shows big reluctance to travel with coronavirus ablaze - VIDEO
Would-be travelers are becoming more pessimistic in their outlook about their safety when they travel. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown's Circa resort will begin taking room reservations Wednesday - Video
Circa developer Derek Stevens confirmed that when the property opens on Oct. 28, persons under the age of 21 won’t be allowed. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort will begin taking room reservations - Video
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort will begin taking room reservations on Wednesday. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Culinary union expresses concerns about returning to work - Video
The Culinary union expresses its concerns about returning to work and the safety precautions that casinos are taking to ensure the safety of staff.
Bellagio poker room reopens with approval to host six-handed games - Video
The installation of plexiglass dividers between the players gave the Bellagio an edge over the other poker rooms open in Las Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Westgate reopens after coronavirus shutdown - Video
Jay Kornegay, vice president of Westgate Sportsbook, talks about the reopening of the casino on Thursday, June 18. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Final beam of Circa resort tower moved into place - Video
A crane whisked the final beam in the construction of downtown Las Vegas’ Circa resort property into place Friday morning, June 19, and crews paused momentarily, then continued working to ensure the casino's Oct. 28 opening. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas reopens - Video
The Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino reopened its doors on June 18 after the statewide shutdown in response to COVID-19. (Mackenzie Behm/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masks required at casino table games in Nevada - Video
The state Gaming Control Board has ordered Nevada casinos to require players and spectators of most casino table and card games to wear protective face coverings.
Downtown Las Vegas’ Circa to open in October - Video
Circa resort-casino’s first five floors are set to open Oct. 28, according to CEO and developer Derek Stevens. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas movie theaters set July reopening date - Video
Las Vegas movie theater reopenings will start Regal, the valley’s largest exhibitor, announced Tuesday that it will reopen its theaters starting July 10, albeit in a modified fashion. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Contractors say they’re owed $36M for work done at Drew Las Vegas - Video
Three months after coronavirus turmoil shut off construction of the Drew Las Vegas, contractors have levied claims for more than $36 million in unpaid bills. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Contractors say they’re owed $36M for work done at Drew Las Vegas
Three months after coronavirus turmoil shut off construction of the Drew Las Vegas, contractors have levied claims for more than $36 million in unpaid bills. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Many Las Vegas guests ignoring COVID-19 protocols
Casinos are putting safety first but many Las Vegas guests are not socially distancing.
As Las Vegas casinos reopen, not every employee is convinced it's safe to go back.
As Las Vegas casinos reopen, some employees aren't convinced it's safe to go back.
1.54M Americans filed for unemployment last week - Video
The U.S. Labor Department released the unemployment numbers on Thursday, June 11. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1.54 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week
1.54 Million Americans Filed for Unemployment Last Week. The U.S. Labor Department released the unemployment numbers on Thursday. The number of jobless claims was just below economists' predictions of 1.55 million claims. 1.897 million Americans applied for unemployment insurance the previous week. More than 44 million Americans have filed jobless claims in the past three months. Continuing claims nearly topped 21 million. The numbers follow the May jobs report, which revealed that more than two million jobs were added to the U.S. economy in May. Initial jobless claims continued the gradual downward trend. But it is still hard to square the claims figures with the much more upbeat news on the labor market from May’s Employment Report, Capital Economics, via Yahoo Finance
Visitors return to Las Vegas
Guests returned to Las Vegas casinos throughout the weekend. Casinos reopened on Thursday after being closed for 78 days because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Sisolak tours casino property after reopening - Video
Gov. Steve Sisolak and Sandra Morgan, chairwoman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, participated in a tour of the Wynn Las Vegas hotel-casino where they share their first thoughts on casinos reopening. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)