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Some tourists doubt Strip casino cleaning efforts amid virus spread

Updated March 6, 2020 - 1:18 pm

At least two casino operators on the Strip are stepping up cleaning efforts as a new coronavirus spreads around the globe, with one confirmed case in Southern Nevada.

MGM Resorts International, which operates the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand and several other hotels on Las Vegas Boulevard, is placing more hand sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas, “reinforcing proactive cleaning” and boosting the frequency of “disinfectant procedures,” spokesman Brian Ahern said in a statement Friday morning.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., operator of the Palazzo and The Venetian, said it deployed more hand sanitizing stations, is using additional personnel to wipe down restroom counters and stalls with disinfectant, and is having additional staff “disinfect high touchpoints more regularly,” including escalator rails and elevator buttons.

But a number of tourists staying at properties across the Strip said they haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.

“If we didn’t hear about it on TV or the newspapers, we wouldn’t even know (there was an outbreak),” said Ontario native Pauline Murray, who is staying at Caesars Palace this week with her husband. “To me, there’s nothing. There’s no signs anywhere telling people to be diligent about sanitizing their hands.”

“They’re putting their heads in the sand,” her husband, Dale Murray, added.

‘Everybody’s touching the same things’

Representatives of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Boyd Gaming Corp. did not respond to requests for comment on their cleaning efforts, including for cards and chips.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Station Casinos declined to comment.

Mehmet Erdem, an associate professor of hospitality at UNLV, said he’s found Strip properties are being proactive in sanitation efforts amid the outbreak.

“When one considers the volume of foot-traffic in and out of the Strip properties … the public areas and casino floors are unbelievably clean,” he said via email. “There is already plenty of evidence of visible precautionary measures at many Strip properties, i.e. hand sanitizers by cashier-desks (and) cashiers wearing gloves.”

While keeping casinos clean during an outbreak is important, having guests notice the sanitation efforts can also be critical for operators at this time, according to Jonathan Day, an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at Indiana’s Purdue University.

Visible efforts toward a clean environment can help put customers at ease and enhance customer relations, he said.

“People are looking for cues that show the companies are caring and they’re working on their behalf,” he said. “It’s a chance to show how much you care, and create a safe place for people to relax and enjoy.”

Some tourists, like Pittsburgh native Tyrone Dickey and his wife, have yet to notice such efforts.

Dickey is staying at the Hilton Elara with his wife through Monday, but had made stops at TI, Caesars Palace, Bellagio and Flamingo. Dickey said they visit about twice a year, and hadn’t noticed staff cleaning more than usual compared to previous visits.

For Kansas City native Stephanie Rogge, visiting Las Vegas with friends through Sunday, the outbreak has been on her mind, but it hasn’t impacted any of her plans —including gambling.

“I did wonder, ‘Well, how is this (game) sanitized?’” she said. “But ultimately, we still did it.”

Rogge, staying at Park MGM, said she’s been taking extra precautions during her stay, carrying around hand sanitizer and being more conscious of what she’s touching.

North Dakota resident Kirk Waslien said he hadn’t noticed any of the casinos’ staff wiping off machines during his week-long stay. He did see hand sanitizer near an entrance to New York-New York, but found it empty.

“That tells you people, when you walk in the door, they’re worried about (the virus),” he said, adding that in general he’s nervous about the spread of the virus. “Everybody’s touching the same things.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writer Eli Segall contributed to this report.

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