In a spirited and informational meeting on Thursday afternoon, the Nevada Gaming Control Board officially enacted their regulations for the reopening of the Nevada gaming industry. These rules will be in force for every major casino operation on The Strip in Las Vegas, in the historical downtown Fremont Street area and for the more than 400 other casino properties and the 1000-plus “restricted licensees” that have 15 or fewer slot machines in other locations throughout the state.
Local Fire Regulations to Determine Occupancy Limits
One of the biggest obstacles regarding any reopening of the Nevada gaming industry would be how many people would be allowed in the property. The NGCB somewhat decided on this issue, levying a dictate that the properties should only have 50% occupancy when opened. This puts the official numbers that would be allowed in on the local fire departments and building inspectors, who set these numbers according to their inspections.
For those who read the prior proposals from the NGCB regarding the table games and poker and were concerned about the numbers, that proved to be well-founded. The NGCB went with the numbers that had many up in arms, including the following numbers:
Three players per blackjack table
Four players per roulette table
Four players per poker table
Six players per craps table
During the public comment phase of the hearing, poker player Richard Gilliam spoke up. Citing how poker is usually played, he informed the NGCB that four-handed poker was not profitable for neither the casinos nor the players, which could significantly hurt bringing some rooms back. “I understand the need for reducing the number of players as a safety measure, but these regulations are meant to strike a balance between visitor safety and…economic viability,” Gilliam stated during his time on the floor. He advocated for a six-handed approach to poker, but the NGCB did not make an immediate decision on his suggestion.
Opportunity for Other Advocates to Speak Up
Outside of the gaming arena, there were plenty of other organizations and people who spoke up for their points of advocacy. Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the secretary-treasurer of Culinary Workers Union Local 226, spoke up for the members of the union in appealing for more guidelines for health reasons. “Culinary union members want to go back to work,” Arguello-Kline said, “but they are worried about what awaits them inside the casinos when they go back.” A guest room attendant of Arguello-Kline’s organization emphasized this point, stating “I interact with guests frequently throughout the day…I am scared of touching dirty bedding, towels or trash.”
There was even a statement made from those who wish to ban smoking in the Nevada casinos. Appealing to health reasons regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, University of Nevada-Reno assistant professor Jennifer Pearson and Christine Thompson of the Nevada Cancer Coalition in Reno pushed for board members to include a smoking ban in the reopening regulations for the Nevada casino industry. This was unlikely as the NGCB didn’t make any moves towards such a ban when they first issued their proposed reopening regulations and they chose not to add it to the regulations after the public hearing concluded.
The bigger issue for the Nevada casino industry is this: if they are open, what do they do if nobody comes? Airline travel is down more than 90% in some areas of the country and the hotels in the state are just beginning to book rooms (currently, The Bellagio is accepting reservations after June 1). With the restrictions on the table games, will the players return? Or will it be some time before Nevada’s gaming industry can recover from the two-month shutdown?