CDC Issues Casino Reopening Considerations, But 734 Have Already Resumed Operations

Posted on: June 19, 2020, 09:48h. 

Last updated on: June 19, 2020, 03:02h.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued “Considerations for Casinos and Gaming Operations” to ponder as they reopen. But the guidance comes after more than 700 casino venues have already unlocked their doors.

CDC casinos coronavirus face mask
A man who was not required to wear a face mask at the time plays craps at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on June 4. Gamblers must now wear a mask while playing table games in Nevada. (Image: John Locher/AP)

According to the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) COVID-19 Casino Tracker, 734 commercial and tribal casinos are open. Two hundred and fifty-five remain closed.

US casinos began shuttering in early March. It was only on June 18 that the CDC released advice as to how such businesses should safely reopen. The federal health agency says the final decision as to what capacity a casino should resume gaming at must be a collaborative effort between federal, state, and local officials.

The CDC states that the longer a person “in a casino or gaming setting … interacts with others, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.” The health agency adds the disease “is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes.”

Casinos and Coronavirus

Nevada, the largest gaming state in the US, began reopening casinos on June 4. As is the case at casinos across the country, numerous health and safety measures were required to be in place before each casino could turn their slots back on.

Nevada casinos have rearranged their slot machines and floor layouts to promote social distancing, reduced table game capacity, installed plexiglass dividers between players, increased cleaning protocols, and have required their employees to wear masks.

The CDC says the risk of COVID-19 spread increases in casinos amid the following four scenarios:

  • Lowest Risk: Gaming activities are only available online.
  • More Risk: Casinos reopen, but social distancing is maintained and slot machines are disinfected between use. Table games remain closed.
  • Even More Risk: Casinos allow table games to reopen in reduced capacities. Customers share objects such as dice and cards, but those materials are cleaned and removed from play every 72 hours.
  • Highest Risk: Casino and gaming operations are at full capacity. Individuals are not spaced apart, and sharing of gaming equipment is permitted with no restrictions.

Along with the gaming operational breakdown of risk, the CDC includes numerous recommendations to casinos that have been issued for various other industries. They include keeping staff at home who might be ill, and assessing customers’ health prior to permitting entry.

The CDC also suggests casinos reinforce the importance of hand hygiene, and make available hand washing and sanitization stations throughout the casino.

Face Mask Controversy

Gamblers inside Nevada casinos are not required to wear face coverings, the exception being when they’re playing or within six feet of a table game.

Cloth face coverings should be worn as feasible and are most essential in times when social distancing is difficult,” the CDC says, putting the word “most” in bold type. “Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board did not initially require gamblers to wear face masks, but did encourage their use. The gaming regulatory agency said it amended its face mask policy in response to CDC guidance.