Coronavirus fallout: Limits to be placed on occupancy, gaming when Nevada casinos reopen

Nevada casinos will be limited to no more than 50% their maximum occupancy capacity, space between slot machines will be increased, and table games will have limited seating for players under health and safety policies released by state gaming regulators late Friday.

The Gaming Control Board, in the notice to casino operators, said the policies constitute “the minimum requirements to be followed” for properties to reopen once the current shutdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is lifted.

Casino and resort operators were encouraged to implement their own additional requirements for protocols covering social distancing, hygiene, use of personal protection equipment (PPE), sanitation, disinfecting, and cleaning on gaming floors.

All gaming operators must submit their plans to the Control Board before being allowed to reopen. Casinos in Nevada have been closed since March 18 and while several Strip resorts have been accepting room reservations for different dates in May, a reopening date is still undetermined.

The Control Board developed two sets of guidelines: a seven-page document for resort casinos and locals gaming properties, and a four-page notice for operators with up to 15 slot machines, such as taverns, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets.

As with resort casinos, occupancy inside the smaller locations will also be reduced by 50% while social distancing measures in taverns will limit the number of bar top slot machines that can be used at a given time.

The Control Board said it created the plans in consultation with the Governor’s office and federal, state, and local health officials. The policies were to “diminish personal contact and increase the level of disinfection in high-use areas.”

The Nevada Gaming Commission will make the final decisions on how gaming establishments reopen.

Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands have released their own plans for reopening while MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming have reopening plans under development.

Under the operational requirements to “mitigate and reduce” the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for employees, patrons, and other guests inside resort casinos:

  • Social distancing guidelines must cover the hotel front desk, business centre, and concierge areas.
  • Seating in restaurants and bars will be reduced for appropriate space in between tables.
  • Casino operators can utilize headcounts by security personnel, existing surveillance systems, and slot accounting systems to ensure a 50% occupancy limit.
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are to be available to all casino employees and patrons.
  • A floor plan for gaming machines must create proper social distancing between players. Chairs and stools in front of every other gaming machines can be removed so that patrons do not sit next to each other. Employees will be assigned to make sure guests do not congregate in groups.
  • Plans must address how gaming machines, devices, chairs, and other ancillary equipment will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
  • Seating will be reduced at gaming tables. Player limits should be three players per blackjack table, six players per craps table, four players per roulette table, and four players per poker table. Casino supervisors and managers must ensure that patrons do not congregate in groups around gaming tables. Hand sanitizers should be available to patrons.
  • Plans should ensure regular cleaning and disinfection of table games, rails, chairs, dice, card shoes, shufflers, roulette wheels, Pai Gow tiles, pit podiums, blackjack discard holders, and toke boxes when a new player or employee comes into contact with any of the gaming equipment. Plans should also address how to disinfect cards and chips.
  • Customers can not congregate in groups inside race and sportsbooks, keno lounges, and bingo halls. Plans must address how the areas will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.
  • Meeting and convention spaces should allow for social distancing. Gatherings of 250 people or more are prohibited until further notice is provided by the Control Board.
  • Nightclubs and day clubs are closed until further notice.
  • Pool area seating must be configured consistent with federal, state, and local social distancing requirements.
  • Retail areas will need to comply with social distancing protocols.

As for the hotel areas, a property’s housekeeping staff is required to have comprehensive training on COVID-19 safety and disinfection protocols. Also, employees should have access to the required PPE, cleaning products, and sanitizer.

Regulators also want a COVID-19 room recovery plan and cleaning procedure if a hotel guest is confirmed with a case of COVID-19. The room must be removed from service and undergo an enhanced cleaning protocol as determined by local health authorities.

In taverns with bar top slot machines, operators must remove every other bar stool to effectuate proper social distancing among patrons. A game’s bill and ticket validator may be covered so that patrons do not use that machine. A tavern may not exceed more than 50% of its total capacity at any time.


This article was written by Howard Stutz, executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports, and published 4 May, 2020