Regulators want reopening plans from Nevada casino operators, although no timetable for restart

Regulators want reopening plans from Nevada casino operators, although no timetable for restart

  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
April 23, 2020 11:34 AM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Other

Nevada’s casino operators will need to file a plan of reopening with state gaming regulators for each of their properties before the nation’s largest legal gambling market, shut down by the governor’s order for more than a month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, can reopen.

In a statement Wednesday, Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said the agency’s policy memorandum, which was posted to the board’s website, was not intended to be an exhaustive process.

The plans must be submitted to the Control Board at least seven days before any casino reopening takes place, “or as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.”

Nevada casinos closed on March 18 on the order of Governor Steve Sisolak in an effort to slow the coronavirus spread. Earlier this month, Sisolak extended the closure until April 30.

During a press briefing Tuesday, Sisolak said he would extend the state’s shutdown order to an as-yet-undetermined date and close schools for the rest of the academic year.

However, the governor said he would allow some businesses to reopen if the state sees a consistent downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Morgan said the Control Board will continue to enforce the temporary closure of all gaming operations in the state, subject to further directives.

“As a statewide regulatory and law enforcement agency, the board remains steadfast in ensuring compliance with the statewide emergency directives within the Board’s jurisdiction,” said Morgan.

The procedures for reopening, authored by Control Board member Terry Johnson, spell out 18 different areas the operators need to address before a casino reopens, such as “replenishment of funds, including cash, chips, and tokens, in all areas of casino accountability.”

For group one casinos, the plans will be reviewed by the agency’s audit division. Group two casinos will be reviewed by the board’s tax and license division.

Morgan said casino operators will also need to follow the “continued guidance and best practices issued by health authorities for mitigating the spread of COVID-19.” She added that the board would assist casino operators in complying with state gaming laws.

“A safe, thoughtful, and efficient resumption of gaming operations in this state will help both Nevada and its residents recover from this pandemic,” Morgan said.

Several casino company executives have already discussed or hinted at reopening plans. Wynn Resorts has released a detailed plan of reopening for its casinos in Nevada and Boston.

Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, in a commentary published in The Nevada Independent Sunday, said reduced occupancy, distancing measures, temperature checks, a restriction on large gatherings, and masks for everyone may be the norm at the company’s casinos in Las Vegas and Boston.

“Our detailed plan … to keep employees and customers safe upon reopening … 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 wrote.

In a video posted to LinkedIn Tuesday, MGM Resorts International acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company would be “operating differently” once it reopens but didn’t give details other than enhanced cleaning procedures, reconfigured casino floor layouts, and certain changes to restaurants.

Earlier this month, Hornbuckle told CNBC MGM will only begin reopening properties “when it is safe.” The company, which has nine properties on the Strip and casinos in six states, “won’t necessarily want to be the first to open.”

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.