When casinos reopen in Las Vegas and across the state of Nevada, they’re going to have a different look and way in which they operate.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board has published health and safety requirements for the reopening of the state’s casino industry. However, the NGCB has yet to announce a date when the properties will be able to reopen after the coronavirus outbreak closed the state’s casinos March 17.
In a seven-page memo, regulators outline everything from employee hygiene and slot machine layouts, to social distancing requirements for restaurants and bars and even hotel room cleaning.
Among the long list of proposals, Nevada casinos floors will be limited to no more than 50 percent of their maximum occupancy capacity.
“The purpose of these policies and procedures is to notify Nevada’s nonrestricted gaming licensees of new operational requirement to mitigate and reduce the risk of exposure to (the coronavirus) for all employees, patrons and other guests,” state gaming regulators said in a memo.
The NGCB added that this policy “constitutes the minimum requirement that should be followed and does not preclude a gaming licensee from implementing its own additional requirements.”
The Nevada Gaming Commission is expected to approve the health and safety policies when it meets on Thursday.
Within the last two weeks, Wynn Resorts, MGM Resorts International have disclosed plans for taking extra precautions to protect employees and visitors from the coronavirus when they reopen.
Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox expects Wynn Las Vegas and Encore to begin reopening as soon as mid-May, so long as “extensive safety measures” are taken, including thermal cameras to turn away customers with high temperatures.
In a 23-page report titled “Wynn Las Vegas Health & Sanitation Program,” the company said every other table game will be open, with a maximum of three chairs per table and four chairs per large baccarat table.
There will also be a three-player maximum on each side of dice games, and casino supervisors will “discourage unrelated guests from congregating behind players.”
A few cleaning protocols have been added to table games. Supervisors will sanitize table game rails and chairs after each gambler leaves the table.
Certain slot machines will be turned off and chairs will be reconfigured to allow for social distancing.
“This plan presents what we will do to keep our guests, employees, and our comm0unity safe,” Maddox said. “It relies on the best available science on sanitization methods in consultation with professional infectious disease experts from the best academic institutions in the country.”
Maddox said they expect to continue to refine and update the plans as they receive more advice.
Wynn’s competitor on the Strip and In Macau, Las Vegas Sands will use Hong Kong as an example for health and cleaning guidelines, company executives said during a first quarter earnings conference call on April 22.
“Hong Kong is open and operating,” Robert Goldstein, president and chief operations officer of Las Vegas Sands said. “It never closed in terms of retail and restaurants and they’re walking around with gloves and masks and sanitizers and temperature checks.”
Goldstein said the company’s job is to provide a safe environment for their employees and customers, “so they keep coming and there is no reinfection.” He added that even Nevada is having a hard time getting opened again, “because the people are so scared and don’t have any idea.”
In a conference call with analysts, Bill Hornbuckle, acting CEO for MGM Resorts International, said the company is working through its reopening and safety plans that will be made public soon.
Hornbuckle said the plans would include guidelines on personal protective equipment, social distancing, sanitization, and crowd management.
“Ultimately, the precise reopening dates depend on decisions by elected officials consulting with public health authorities,” Hornbuckle said. “In MGM’s case, that means the governors of Nevada, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio, and New York. Due to various public health conditions in these States, we are preparing to open properties in phases.”
Hornbuckle said once Las Vegas casinos are allowed to open we will have “made decisions about property openings based on consumer demand and the economics of individual properties will also balance those needs of our employees, our local regulators, and other key stakeholders.”
Hornbuckle said New York-New York and Bellagio would likely be MGM’s first Las Vegas casinos to reopen.
Boyd Gaming is expecting capacity restrictions will be required once its casinos reopen, with social distancing in bars, restaurants and on the casino floor. CEO Keith Smith said Boyd’s properties in Southern Nevada would likely reopen as soon as they are allowed to.
“We do not know when we will be permitted to resume operations,” Smith said. “We are currently working with state and local officials … to gain a better understanding of when we will be able to reopen and what reopening may look like.”
Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment and Eldorado Resorts were expected to update their plans for reopening on Monday when both companies announce results for the first quarter.