Sahara Las Vegas, Grand Sierra Resort Reno to Pay $75K COVID-19 Fine

Posted on: September 24, 2020, 09:48h. 

Last updated on: September 24, 2020, 10:55h.

The ownership group of Sahara Las Vegas and Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno has agreed to pay Nevada a $75,000 fine for violating COVID-19 health and safety regulations.

Sahara Las Vegas Nevada COVID-19
Sahara Las Vegas recently tweeted this photo reminding guests that face masks must be worn while on the casino floor. (Image: Sahara Las Vegas)

The Meruelo Group, the holdings conglomerate of Cuban-American billionaire Alex Meruelo, didn’t admit guilt in its settlement with the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB). The company instead agreed that the state gaming regulator could meet its burden of proof to warrant a hearing before its superior, the Nevada Gaming Commission.

The Meruelo Group acquired Sahara, then known as SLS Las Vegas, in 2018 for an undisclosed sum. The casino resort on the Strip’s northern end was rebranded back to Sahara in August of 2019. Meruelo has owned Grand Sierra since 2011.

Along with the two Nevada casinos, the Meruelo Group is invested in construction, financial services, radio and television broadcast media, and sushi distribution company FujiSan.

COVID-19 Violations

The NGCB argued that Sahara and Grand Sierra both violated state orders to protect workers and guests against the coronavirus. In the agency’s penalty settlement recommendation to the Nevada Gaming Commission, the Board says the properties were repeat offenders of enforcing the mandatory wearing of face masks.

The NGCB filed a three-count complaint against Grand Sierra after Control Board agents observed patrons not wearing face coverings. In the complaint, the agents said casino employees failed to take adequate measures to enforce the regulation.

At Sahara, the state says the casino allowed an indoor luncheon of 135 people on July 23 which was in violation of the state’s ban on indoor gatherings of 50 or more people. An executive with Sahara told NGCB enforcement officials that there was a misunderstanding regarding the regulations surrounding indoor gatherings.

“He stated that he interpreted information discussed during a conference call held by the Nevada Resort Association … to mean that events that included food and beverage services could be held to the occupancy standards of restaurants at 50 percent capacity,” the complaint detailed.

Casino Fines

Nevada’s Gaming Commission is collecting fines due to casinos violating COVID-19 protocols. Along with the $75,000 penalty on Sahara and Grand Sierra, the NGCB has recommended the Gaming Commission impose penalties of $60,000 on other companies that have allegedly violated orders.

The NGCB says Cactus Jack’s Senator Club and Jackpot Crossing has agreed to pay $30,000 for mask violations. The Board says Hotel Nevada in Ely will pay $10,000 for face mask breaches.

Century Gaming has agreed to a $15,000 penalty for not disabling its bar top games at Cheers in Winnemucca. Bowl Incline is on the hook for $5,000 for also not turning off its bar terminals.