Gaming Control Board refining rules for reopening casinos

Associated Press
The casino corridor on Highway 50 in Stateline, Nevada.
Tribune File Photo

LAS VEGAS — Nevada gambling regulators said Tuesday they may require the state’s shuttered casinos to test all front-line resort workers for COVID-19, plan to isolate infected visitors and take other steps to slow the coronavirus spread before they can reopen.

“This agency, our health officials, the governor. We’re all concerned with the safety of employees, all the visitors, all the guests — the folks that have potentially contracted” COVID-19, state Gaming Control Board Member Phil Katsaros said near the end of a nearly three-hour rule-making workshop. “That’s why we’re here. That’s why we shut down a multibillion-dollar economy.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak was scheduled later Tuesday to announce his plans for letting casinos reopen as early as June 4, more than 11 weeks after he ordered closures to prevent crowds from gathering and spreading the virus.

Sisolak also was expected to address a Trump administration warning that his ban on religious gatherings of 10 or more people may draw Justice Department action as a violation of constitutional rights to worship.

Nevada health officials reported the number of COVID-19 tests administered statewide at nearly 143,000 and the number of confirmed cases at almost 8,000, with at least 396 deaths.

University Medical Center chief executive Mason Van Houweling said the percentage of positives among those tested in Nevada, now 5.6%, is well below the World Health Organization recommendation of 10% and less than half the April 23 peak of 12.2%.

“I can firmly say that anybody that wants a test or requires a test has availability to get a test in the state,” the head of Nevada’s only public hospital said. He and Dr. Anthony Slonim, head of Renown Health in Reno said hospitals are not close to capacity in room use, intensive care beds or ventilators needed.

Gaming Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan promised what she called a final “industry notice” by Wednesday with rules for casinos to reopen. That would give the state’s nearly 460 top-level gambling license holders the seven-plus days’ notice the board promised for enacting plans to sanitize surfaces, keep gamblers safe distances apart and protect workers.

“We’re still in the response phase and we all know that,” Morgan said. “We’re finding a way to get to the recovery phase.”

Culinary workers’ union executive Geoconda Argüello-Kline termed the board’s decisions “life or death” for tens of thousands of workers who clean hotel rooms, serve cocktails and come in direct contact with tourists.

“When we reopen the casinos, guests from all over the country, perhaps all over the world, will come,” Argüello-Kline said in a statement to the board. “What happens if someone who arrives in Vegas asymptomatic develops symptoms here and decides to hole up in their room for a couple of days instead of asking for medical attention?”

Van Houweling said about 10 hotel properties in the Las Vegas area “have agreed to accept positive guests for lodging services.” He did not name them.

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