Sisolak: June 4 target date for reopening gaming in Nevada

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Steve Marcus

Pedestrians walk down a normally busy sidewalk along the Las Vegas Strip Sunday, March 15, 2020.

Published Fri, May 22, 2020 (3:41 p.m.)

Updated Fri, May 22, 2020 (5:50 p.m.)

Nevada’s gaming industry could reopen June 4 after more than two months of closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Friday.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board on Tuesday will meet with health officials to review safety and sanitation protocols that resorts plan to implement. The board would first need to give its approval for the opening of the industry.

"The board is firmly aware of its statutory duty to protect the public health and welfare of the Silver State's citizenry, while allowing the gaming industry to flourish through strict regulation," Sisolak said in a statement.

If the testing and infection rate data continues to reflect positive trends through Memorial Day weekend, Sisolak is expected to announce further reopening plans on Tuesday, his office announced. On May 20, 7.7% of the 3,657 tests conducted statewide came back positive in continuing the downward trend. At its peak, the infection rate was 12%.

“Without a thoughtful and measured reopening of Nevada’s gaming industry, all of the work that Nevadans have done to fight the spread of this viral pandemic will have been for naught,” Sisolak said.

Resorts are required to submit reopening safety plans to the board for approval at least seven days before they reopen. Some of the expected changes include: employees and patrons wearing face coverings, many sanitation stations, limited capacity at tables games (three players instead of six for blackjack, for instance), and temperature checks for visitors entering a property.

And like the first phase of the state's reopening earlier this month, crowds will be capped. Restaurants, which brought back dine-in options May 10, are operating at 50%.

Companies in the resort corridor will initially only open a handful of properties. Caesars Entertainment will start with Caesars Palace and Flamingo; MGM Resorts International will start with Bellagio and New York-New York.

In response to the target date, a Caesars Entertainment spokesman said the company is “excited to welcome back our guests and employees to our properties.”

“This is fantastic news for Nevada’s largest industry and for Nevada’s economy,” said Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, in a tweet Friday afternoon. “Our members are ready to begin the work of moving the state’s recovery forward as quickly as possible."

Wynn Resorts also chimed in about the opening date: “Because of (the governor's) careful, science-based approach to containing the virus, Nevada is now ready to open its economy and get people working again.”

Some companies, including Station Casinos and Wynn Resorts, have announced reopening dates for some of their eateries.

Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced Tuesday that it plans to open the Venetian to hotel guests on June 1.

The opening will provide relief for some of the state’s workforce.

David Schmidt, the chief economist at the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said number of jobs in the food and hospitality industry was down 41% compared to April 2019. The state in April had a record 28.2% jobless rate.

Sisolak also on Tuesday will detail plans for the second phase of the state’s tiered reopening. But it's uncertain if businesses still closed — places of worship, gyms and bars — would be included.

The state’s reopening documents indicate the phase will include a “broader opening of commerce/retail, services and public life under extremely strict social distancing measures, hygiene and occupancy controls.”

"Safer at Home" recommendations will stay in place during the second phase, according to the document, while vulnerable populations will be urged to stay home until the outbreak is over. Face masks will be strongly encouraged.

This phase is expected to last, at a minimum, two to three weeks.

“If you don’t wear it for yourself, wear it for front-end health care workers, people in nursing homes and the veterans,” Sisolak said Friday during a Vegas Chamber video conference call. “I deal with first responders and they tell me that they want nothing more than for people to wear face coverings because it does make a difference. We’re coming up on Memorial Day and people will be getting together. We implore them to practice social distancing and wear a face mask.”

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