Nevada Governor sets casino return date

By Mia Chapman Updated
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Las Vegas is set to reopen casinos following its coronavirus lockdown.

Fox10 Phoenix reports that guests to the gambling city shouldn’t expect a return to business as usual though.

Nevada’s Governor Steve Sisolak set June 4 as a tentative date to reopen casinos statewide following two weeks of continued decreases in both new cases and hospitalisations.

Should the decline continue through to the weekend, Mr Sisolak will hold a press conference on Tuesday to reveal further rollback as part of the next phase to reopen the state.

Nevada Resort Association president and chief executive officer Virginia Valentine applauded the governor’s decision, calling it “fantastic news” for Nevada’s gaming industry.

“Our members have spent more than two months preparing for this day,” she said in an emailed statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“They’ve put in place enhanced health and safety plans and protocols…Our members are excited to show off the enhancements they’ve made that preserve the experience while ensuring the wellbeing of our employees and visitors.”

Casinos are required to submit plans for reopening, which will require approval at least seven days ahead of actually opening their doors.

Other businesses, such as night clubs, day clubs, buffets and large venues will remain closed – including the infamous Cirque du Soleil.

“You’re going to see a lot of social distancing,” Caesars Palace general manager Sean McBurney said.

“If there’s crowding, it’s every employee’s responsibility to ensure there’s social distancing.”

Guests will see signs everywhere that remind them to wash their hands, maintain social distancing and limit gatherings to four people when possible.

The most striking difference will be a limit on games and participants: four players only at roulette, six at craps.

Plastic partitions will separate dealers from players and players from each other at the Bellagio, three at each table, and slot machines will be shut down to discourage players from sitting near each other.

“Visually, you’ll still see a lot of colour and activity, but you won’t be able to play every machine,” Mr McBurney said.

“New state Gaming Control Board regulations require that casinos disinfect surfaces and give “increased attention” to high-touch hotel items like television remotes and light switches.

Dice will be disinfected between shooters, chips cleaned periodically and card decks frequently changed.

At some resorts, guests will be encouraged to use mobile phones for touchless check-in, as room keys, and to read restaurant menus.

Large resorts will hand out free masks to guests, but won’t require their use.

“We all know what we’ve gone through for the last 10 weeks. No one’s having fun,” MGM Resorts International acting chief executive and president said.

“The simple idea that I could get out, come to a resort, lay at a pool, enjoy a nice dinner, sit at a blackjack table. There’s something to be said for all of that.”

Vegas is waiting out the coronavirus pandemic

A handful of cars drove past the eerily quiet hotels and casinos, shuttered since mid-March in the city of Las Vegas.

Yahoo News reported in early May that beneath the world-famous Strip, Sin City is in turmoil.

A tug of war has emerged between the need for safety during coronavirus and the survival of the gambling capital’s tourism industry, which some casino operators fear will never be the same.

Nevada’s Culinary Union Local 226, which represents some 60,000 casino and hotel workers, has had 98 per cent of its members laid off, according to secretary-treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline.

At least 12 union members have died from the COVID-19 outbreak, out of Nevada’s total death toll of 243.

Arguello-Kline said the union fully supports the governor’s decision to extend the lockdown until at least May 15.

“He is doing what he can to protect us,” she said.

“I know it is tough for people, but if you lose your life, you have lost what is most important.”

But the length of time of the shutdown – and whether it is even necessary – has triggered heated debate in Las Vegas.

Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman has called the shutdown “insanity” and has pleaded for the city to be reopened.

Last month, Goodman faced national backlash after a controversial interview with CNN.

In a statement released last week, Goodman, who still enjoys support among Las Vegas residents eager to get back to work, emphasised the need to reopen in the “safest” way.

“Las Vegas is in a unique economic crisis,” she wrote.

Key to the debate is how Las Vegas casinos could safely reopen their doors if the restrictions were lifted.

Inventors have touted Plexiglass barriers at blackjack tables and other card tables, which would separate the dealer and each player.

Some resorts have rolled out thermo-imaging plans to check patrons’ temperatures at a casino entry.

Arguello-Kline said social distancing measures must be put in place, from restaurants to elevators, along with personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves for workers.

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