Encore, state study how to open casinos by midsummer


Encore officials and State Gaming Commission staff at all levels are attempting to create a new operating protocol for the state’s casinos when they are allowed to reopen.

To do so, Encore and the state are paying close attention to what the state’s gaming officials are doing in Nevada.

In Nevada, the effort is to get open again, perhaps by May 31.

Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas is open for visitor bookings for the Memorial Day weekend to its casinos and hotels.

Present conditions in Massachusetts do not correspond to that kind of hopefulness.

It appears likely Massachusetts won’t be reopening its casinos in May and maybe not in June or until the plateauing of the virus crisis begins heading downward.

In Nevada, the Gaming Control Board, as it is know there, issued a pair of new health and safety policy statements detailing instructions for the reopening of casinos with guidelines that include social distancing requirements.

The guidelines were posted last Friday on the control board’s website. The directive requires licensees to provide a detailed reopening plan at least seven days before their planned opening.

It is likely the casinos in Massachusetts will not announce their reopenings before the MGC has given its permission for them to do so, and only then by enforcing new state mandated stipulations for operation.

Officials here are struggling with the realities of the virus and the need for a major business entity to get its doors open with the situation on the ground in Greater Boston and throughout Massachusetts. Casinos here and in Nevada, have been closed since March 17 in order to stop the spread of the virus. The closings have been extended to an undetermined opening date based on the states reaching benchmarks that include continued declines in new cases and hospitalizations and improved levels of expanded testing and contact tracing.

Among the requirements of casino companies listed in the new document in Nevada offers a powerful insight into what the MGC will be requiring of its licensees before they are allowed to reopen.

‒ Properties must limit occupancy to no more than 50 percent of the limit assigned to each gaming area of the property by local building and fire codes. Properties can use head counts by security personnel, existing surveillance systems and slot machine accounting systems to estimate occupancy numbers.

‒ Plans must include how hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes would be available to all casino employees as well as for patron use.

‒ Plans must ensure that the floor plan for slot ma- chines creates proper social distancing between patrons. The guideline suggests that chairs and stools in front of every other gaming machine be removed so that patrons do not sit next to each other, or licensees could propose other measures to ensure proper distance between players. Employees will be assigned to focus on ensuring guests don’t congregate in groups.

‒ Social distancing will be required in all table games. Limits will include three players per blackjack table, six players per craps table, four players per roulette table and four players per poker table. Casino supervisors and managers must ensure that patrons do not congregate in groups around gaming tables.

‒ Plans will require regular cleaning and disinfection of table games, rails, chairs, dice, card shoes, shufflers, roulette wheels, paigow tiles, pit podiums, black- jack discard holders and tip boxes when a new player or employee comes in contact with any of those items. Plans also will address how licensees will disinfect cards and chips.

‒ Plans must ensure that patrons do not congregate in groups and practice social distancing in race and sportsbooks, keno lounges, bingo halls and any other gaming areas. Plans also must include how those areas will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis.

‒ Nightclubs and day clubs within a licensee’s property must remain closed until further notice.

‒ The board expects all licensees to comply with all health and safety guidelines and directives issued by federal, state and local governing authorities with respect to the operation of hotels, restaurants, retail establishments and swimming pools.

‒ Any area where patrons queue should have signage requiring social distancing in accordance with government requirements. All restaurants and bars should have reduced seating under government requirements to allow for appropriate distancing between each table and between customers.

‒ Social distancing requirements will be in place at any meeting and convention space. Centers for Dis- ease Control and Prevention guidelines prohibiting gatherings of 250 people or more will be enforced until further notice. Food service for meetings and conventions will be served by personnel and managed under government requirements.

Similar requirements also are in place for the smaller restricted licensees, including the 50 percent occupancy rules and social distancing at bar top slot machines. The board suggested covering a machine’s bill and ticket validator so that customers do not use that machine.

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