Sisolak imposes social distancing in casinos: “We don’t know what we’re dealing with”

Individual properties making decisions to stay open “as for right now”

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(Nevada Current file photo)

Nevada casinos that choose to remain open during the COVID-19 outbreak will be subject to new requirements aimed at “social distancing” and reducing the spread of the disease, an emotional Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Sunday evening at his second news conference of the day.  

Sisolak said the federal government has yet to provide the state with adequate testing capability.  

“As a result, we don’t know the full extent of what we are dealing with. But based on the rapid spread of the virus around the world and in the state of Nevada, we must act quickly.  Very quickly,” he said. 

“As for right now, I’ve got the chair of our Gaming Control Board right here, individual properties are making individual decisions,” Sisolak said.  

Wynn Resorts became the first gaming company to announce the closure of its properties Sunday, followed quickly by MGM Resorts International, the state’s largest private employer. 

“Other properties, for the time being, have decided to stay open and we’re analyzing this as we get more information on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis,” the governor said, noting hotels and casinos will be subject to new social distancing requirements. 

“I’m asking local governments to enforce a new provision of fifty percent or less capacity of any gathering space presently allowed by the fire department,” Sisolak announced. “Fewer people in a room with a larger distance between them is the only way to decrease the risk of spread.” 

“As we know, gaming is the lifeblood of Nevada’s economy,” Sisolak said.  “But to protect the public health and the safety of Nevada and its visitors, I strongly support any decision our properties make of the difficult decision whether or not to close.”  

Sisolak encouraged gaming licensees to “do their best to protect the pay and benefits of their workforce during these difficult times. Your workforce is there for you day in and day out.  Be there for them during these challenging times.” 

Casinos that stay open must clean and sanitize gaming machines at least every two hours.  No more than three chairs will be allowed at table games and fifty percent occupancy requirements will be in force on casino floors and other resort areas.  

Additionally, only buffets staffed by servers may remain open. 

Sisolak is encouraging companies to allow employees who can to work from home, especially during school closures.  

He’s also asking state agencies to shift from in-person service to remote when possible.  State agency directors have the discretion to determine the best course for their workers.  

“We must protect our workforce while ensuring our government doesn’t grind to a halt,” the governor said.  

Sisolak says Michael Brown, the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, “will work with financial institutions and insurance companies to keep people in their homes and help Nevada’s businesses.” 

“Director Brown and I are encouraging HOAs, banks, and landlords to be as patient and understanding as possible during these unprecedented times,” he said.  

Sisolak asked faith leaders to postpone services if they can’t meet social distance requirements. 

“Older people should stay home,” he said.

“I want to be totally candid with our citizens. While some of these messages are hard to hear, they’re hard to deliver.” 

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.