Casino Workers Express Concerns About Returning to Work, Question Guest Sanitation Habits

Posted on: May 4, 2020, 01:39h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2020, 03:14h.

Las Vegas casino workers are in no rush to return to work, as they remain concerned for their personal safety in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

casino workers coronavirus Las Vegas
Some casino workers don’t want to come face-to-face with gamblers until COVID-19 is better under control. (Image: Shutterstock)

Unite Here, the union that represents workers in the US casino, hotel, and food service industries, says approximately 95 percent of its more than 300,000 members are presently not working. And for the roughly 100,000 Unite Here members employed by casinos, that is even higher at 98 percent.

The vast majority have been laid off and are collecting federal and state unemployment benefits. Wynn Resorts, a company that has a unionized workforce, is one exception, as the casino operator is continuing to pay its idled employees.

All commercial casinos remain closed in the US, and none appear close to reopening. Some tribal casinos, which don’t have to abide by state orders, have resumed operations. For many unionized casino workers, they feel a rush to reopen their workplaces is ill-advised.

If I go back too early, I won’t be able to be alive to work,” Olee Stewart, a 59-year-old cook at Harrah’s Las Vegas, told Reuters.

Nevada casinos, including those on the Las Vegas Strip, have been closed since mid-March.

Casino Cleanliness

When casinos do reopen, they’ll be quite different.

From plexiglass separating dealers from gamblers, mandatory vacant seats between gaming positions, and entrance body temperature checks, the casino of the future will include increased health safety measures.

That’s welcomed news to casino workers like Stewart who remain concerned for their personal safety. However, some say it isn’t enough. Paula Larson-Schusster, a dealer at the Flamingo, claims many gamblers are inherently dirty.

“I’ve had people pick their nose and scratch their private parts and then they pick up the chips,” she said. “I’ve had people shoot NyQuil on the table because they’ve got the flu. But since they’re in Vegas, they’re going to play.”

Best Practices Call

Unite Here will hold a video conference tomorrow with health and sanitation guidelines for gaming companies. The call will be attended by leaders from the Culinary Union, the Las Vegas Unite Here chapter, and local Unite Here affiliates representing Atlantic City and Mississippi.

The recommendations, the union says, will “reflect direction from various public agencies and hospitality employers.”

One issue will be whether to permit gamblers to smoke inside. The World Health Organization says that smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are more in contact with a person’s lips.

Smokers also tend to cough more than nonsmokers, meaning an asymptomatic person could spread the disease at a higher rate.

How is it safe if smokers still smoke and blow their germs out in the casino?” asked one reader. Another: “It’s not fun to walk through a cloud of smoke when entering any building. But now it won’t be just an annoyance, but also a serious medical concern.”

The CDC says there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.