Nevada Gaming Control Board Irons Out Precautions for June 4 Casino Reopenings

Posted on: May 26, 2020, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2020, 04:19h.

As Nevada moves forward to permit the reopening of gaming properties, the state’s Gaming Control Board Tuesday hashed out additional coronavirus safeguards during a workshop involving multiple state and local officials.

Nevada Casino Precautions Outlined
Mason Van Houweling, CEO of University Medical Center, outlined several precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus at Nevada casinos. (Image: KLAS)

The gaming board plans to issue updated guidance in the form of an “industry notice” to gaming properties on Wednesday, given that officials expect to let casinos reopen on June 4. Among the topics that may be addressed in the guidance are plexiglass dividers, table game restrictions, responsible gaming, and face coverings.

Other updated issues are temperature checks, use of health professionals, self-assessment forms, designated waiting areas, employee training, as well as meeting and event room capacities.

But some suggestions, such as the Culinary Union’s request that the gaming board release individual reopening plans submitted by casinos, cannot be implemented, argues Nevada Chief Deputy Attorney General Darlene Caruso. She explained the plans submitted to the board, remain “confidential” and “privileged” under state law.

Also, requests that casinos implement smoking bans cannot be required by the gaming board without new legislation approved by the legislature and signed by the governor. “The board’s hands are tied,” Caruso said.

Recommended Safeguards

In his board presentation, Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, recommended that guests at casinos or hotels are given a COVID-19 prevention card upon arrival at the venue. The card will specify symptoms and other basic information about the illness.

Guests will also get their temperatures checked upon arrival, Leguen recommended. Guests additionally need to complete a daily coronavirus screening report and should wear face masks, he adds.

Employees also need to get temperatures checked daily and should complete the screening report, Leguen said. Workers need to wear face masks in public areas, too.

If an employee has symptoms, the person needs to go home. A doctor would have to rule out COVID-19 and provide medical clearance before the employee can return to work.

Leguen adds that all frontline workers in casinos should be tested twice for coronavirus in the first month of resumed operations. They would later be tested monthly.

In addition, Mason Van Houweling, CEO of University Medical Center, who is also chairman-elect of the Nevada Hospital Association, recommended a series of screening proposals. If a guest upon arrival has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more, the person needs to get a second temperature check after about 15 minutes. The guest should make sure the elevated temperature is not because of high outside temperatures.

If the temperature is still elevated, the guest should be checked by an emergency medical technician (EMT) for blood pressure, respiratory rate, pulse, and fever. The EMT should consult with a physician who is available through telemedicine services.

If needed, the guest would be directed to a coronavirus test which could be done at a gaming property, if appropriate health-care staff is available, or at a testing site.

In an emergency, the patient should be directed to a hospital’s emergency room or an urgent care center.

Patients can approve that their test results be sent to the casino. While the guest awaits the second temperature check and other preliminary exams, they could be directed to a designated area in a resort casino or perhaps wait in their hotel room.

So far, 10 Las Vegas region properties will accept guests who test positive for COVID-19 if a self-quarantine period of two weeks is needed. Their names were not identified by Houweling.

On Tuesday, gaming board commissioner Terry Johnson, an attorney, asked whether some casino guests with fevers may avoid getting a second temperature check, perhaps instead walking out the door and heading to another casino.

We will have those who try to circumvent the system,” Houweling confirmed. “Scenarios will certainly exist, probably [from] day one.”

The goal is to continue to provide healthcare not only to residents, but also to all visitors in Southern Nevada, officials said. “We’ve always taken care of our visitors in the state,” Houweling added.

Johnson also says the gaming board needs to ensure there is a safe and sanitary reopening of casinos in the state. The integrity of gaming in the state should not be compromised during the reopening process, he added.

In the process to reopen casinos, officials continue to monitor relevant health data. “I know we’re not out of the woods yet,” Phil Katsaros, a gaming board commissioner who formerly was chief executive officer for Certus Gaming USA, said during the workshop.

Sandra Morgan Praised

“It seems like we have done an amazing job in Nevada,” Katsaros added. He points out that gaming board chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan led efforts to provide casinos with appropriate guidelines. She used a “pragmatic approach” where she has been open to flexible safeguards as the situation evolves.

“How lucky we are to have you as chair,” Katsaros told Morgan. “My sincere and heartfelt gratitude to you.”

In her comments, Morgan noted that there is not a “magic” number or percentage of those getting tested for coronavirus. She also pointed out that many gaming properties are already testing their employees for the virus.

On April 24, the state saw a 12.2 percent rate for positive coronavirus tests, Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, said. The rate was at 6.9 percent on Monday. Since the outbreak began, 133,508 tests were performed in Nevada.

Looking ahead, the state wants to test two percent of Nevada’s population over each of the next 12 months. So, within a year, 24 percent of residents will be tested for the virus, Cage said.