Gaming Control Board discusses smoking, face masks and COVID-19 testing in casinos

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada Gaming Control Board members heard from health officials and the public Tuesday on what the major concerns were for reopening Nevada’s casinos.

“We’re all concerned with the safety of employees and all our visitors, guests. And we’re concerned with folks potentially contracting COVID,” said Phil Katsaros, board member. “It’s on the forefront of all of our minds.”

The board is the regulatory arm for the state’s casinos. The board was hearing recommendations on how properties can reopen and keep employees and guests safe and will decide if further safety protocols are needed, in addition to what most resort properties have already agreed to do.

UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling highlighted the importance of temperature checks and screenings for guests and also revealed a new plan for dealing with tourists who end up being positive for COVID-19.

“So we have approaching 10 properties out there that have agreed to accept positive guests for lodging services if the patient, guests or visitor is identified as COVID positive. We haven’t provided those names, we’ll provide them to resorts but we have worked out the logistical coordination,” said Van Houweling.

Gaming regulators were assured the community has the ability to take care of any COVID-19 cases that might arise as well as those in the community.

The Southern Nevada Health District is recommending all frontline employees get tested and then re-tested every few weeks but there are legal questions about whether an employee can be forced to take a test.

SNHD recommended taking guests temperatures upon arrival, having guests complete a daily screening report, resorts making face masks available to all guests and requiring facial coverings in public places. Gaming Control Board Director Sandra Morgan said this would likely only impact the larger resorts that have more than a 200 hotel rooms plus a gaming floor.

Overall testing in the community has ramped up significantly in recent weeks when it comes to the public.

“The plan is to test 2% of population a month over next 12 months up to 24%,” said Caleb Cage, who was recently appointed director of COVID-19 Response by the governor.

Van Houweling pointed out that on April 23, the state had a 12.2% positive rate on COVID-19 tests. Since then, the rate of positive tests has dropped in half to around 6.9%.

The first 30 minutes of the meeting was used to read comments that were sent in by the public. Several comments weighed in on whether smoking should be allowed during the reopening.

“Evidence is mounting that the act of exhaling smoke spreads the droplets into the air and are easily transmitted to other people,” wrote Susan Lang.

Morgan said there is no law that gives the board the legal authority to prohibit smoking in casinos.

Other members of the public suggested casino patrons should be required to wear face coverings while others said it should be up to the individual person.

“Governor Sisolak has no idea about the danger that these face masks can cause a person by wearing them all day long. Especially for the elderly. The loss of oxygen to these older folks can be very detrimental to their health. If not fatal,” wrote Henderson resident Barb Whitesell.

Morgan said face coverings should be required for all employees on property and also made available to patrons who should be encouraged to wear them while in public places.

Governor Steve Sisolak is expected to discuss when gaming properties might reopen in his news conference tonight at 5:30 p.m. Morgan said she is hoping to receive an official date so she can give an industry notice to the properties sometime Wednesday on reopening plans.

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