Casinos will find out Friday if the state’s new mask mandate is a deal-breaker for some gamblers.
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Steve Sisolak said face coverings will be required for Nevadans and visitors when they are in a public space starting Friday. This includes hotel-casinos.
While some tourists have been staunchly against mandated masks, others welcome the stricter policy.
“You’d still have fun (with a mask). It’s not like they’re asking you to wear a hazmat suit,” said Tracy Lawson, of Ontario, Canada.
Nevada’s COVID-19 cases have been on the rise since the state reopened casinos June 4. On Tuesday, the state saw a record one-day jump of more than 400 new cases. As of Wednesday, there have been about 14,000 cases of the virus in Nevada and 492 deaths.
Lawson said she would feel much safer visiting Las Vegas with masks required in its hotel properties.
She plans to visit an MGM Resorts International property on July 26, just a few weeks after her last Las Vegas trip the week of June 6. She estimated only a quarter of the people she saw then were wearing masks.
“It kind of just made me angry. … Obviously the virus is a real thing, and they’re not bothering (to stop it from spreading),” she said over the phone. “They want everything open, (but they don’t want to wear a mask). You can’t have it both ways.”
Las Vegas resident and frequent South Point visitor Gene Gilligan said he is “all in favor” of everyone wearing a mask indoors.
“My wife and I have been disappointed to see the lack of masks among slot players as well as at stores in our area,” he said via email.
Other visitors said they believe mandatory masks are unnecessary.
Cliff Johnson, of Glendale, Arizona, said he thinks social distancing and proper hygiene are enough.
“A mask still makes it hard to breathe, and cigarette smoke still gets in,” he said via email.
Chris Frusci, of Dallas, said that even though some customers may not like masks, he doesn’t think any requirements will affect visitation.
“People go to casinos and gamble because they enjoy risk. … Gamblers won’t let this law stop them,” he said via email. “I gamble often and that wouldn’t stop me, although I do feel like people should have a choice (on wearing masks).”
He added that he didn’t see many masks during his stay in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas two weeks ago and said it was “nice to escape reality and feel like there’s no pandemic.”
Caesars announced its decision to require face masks in public areas around noon Wednesday, beating Sisolak to the punch by roughly five hours.
The company’s new policy applies to all employees, vendors, contractors, guests and passersby inside Caesars’ hotel-casinos open in Nevada, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana, as well as tribal properties in Arizona, California and North Carolina. It will also go into effect at properties in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Illinois and Ontario once they reopen.
Those who refuse to wear a face covering will be directed to leave the property.
The casino operator previously required masks only among staff and table game players, and had been offering free slot machine play to select loyalty card customers wearing masks.
The only exception is when employees or guests are eating or drinking. A Caesars spokesperson said casino customers who want to drink or smoke are advised to lower their mask, drink or smoke, then lift their mask back into place.
“We are immediately requiring everyone in our properties to wear masks, because the scientific evidence strongly suggests that wearing masks and practicing social distancing may be the most important deterrents to spreading COVID-19 from person to person,” CEO Tony Rodio said in a news release.
MGM is taking Sisolak’s order one step further by making masks mandatory at its properties across the country, effective Friday. The company had previously just required staff to wear masks, with visitor requirements based on local regulations.
Guests who do not comply will be asked to leave the property.
“We hope that our guests will do their part to help the collective efforts to curtail the spread of the virus,” according to a company statement. “It is clear that the coronavirus still presents a significant public health threat, and masks have proven to be one of the best ways to curtail the spread. We want guests and employees to feel comfortable that we are putting their health and safety first.”
A Wednesday statement from Wynn Las Vegas said the casino operator applauds Sisolak’s decision.
“It is a demonstration of his commitment, shared by all of us, to keep visitors to Las Vegas safe, as well as our employees and local community,” the statement said. “Mandatory face coverings have had no impact on the ability of our employees to deliver great guest experiences. Similarly, we believe face coverings will not diminish the unique experiences only Las Vegas can offer visitors.”
Las Vegas Sands said in a statement that it will follow the governor’s directives and will make masks available to guests at a number of locations.
“Complimentary masks are available at thermal scanning areas located at every entrance, in our casinos at Grazie desks and table games, and at hotel Front Desks, Concierge desks, and Guest Services desks,” the statement reads. “Hotel guests also receive face masks in a Venetian Clean personal care amenity kit, which is provided in guest suites.”
Visitors who do not comply will be asked to leave the premises.
Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman David Strow said the company will “fully comply” with the governor’s new directive on face masks, starting Friday.
A Station Casinos representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
He said mask usage in Las Vegas was initially low — he estimated anywhere between 10 percent and 20 percent of guests wore masks reopening weekend — but has since improved. Even so, he said, requiring face coverings makes sense given rising case numbers in states like Arizona.
“I think the mask wearing has become much more accepted, and I think (updated policies are) great to see for the benefit of everybody,” Stevens said. “Under the current circumstances, it’s great because people have to feel safe in order to have some fun.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.