COVID-19: Nevada casino restaurants can reopen. How it will work

Tuesday 19th May 2020

Casino restaurants can reopen, but they're going to need to direct traffic.

That's the major takeaway from the requirements for reopening issued late last week by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The Reno Gazette Journal reviewed those requirements. Here's what we know about the process.

The casino must inform the Board if the restaurant has an entrance that's separate from any entrance off the gaming floor. If it does not -- and many casino restaurants do not -- the property must explain how customers can enter the restaurant "without traversing the gaming floor."

If the restaurant doesn't have its own restrooms, the casino must explain how customers can enter restrooms outside the restaurant without traversing the gaming floor.

Casino restaurants typically don't have restrooms inside, the better to tempt patrons with gaming opportunities as they head to the loo, so compliance here seems especially challenging.

The plans casinos submit to the Board on how to get customers to and from restaurants will be shaped by two terms: "gaming floor" and "traversing."

The Board defines gaming floor as "anywhere that gaming activity is permitted, which includes any areas where slots, tables, card and counter games are located," said Michael Lawton, senior researach analyst in the Administrative Division of the Board.

Traversing means "travel among and through areas where gaming activity occurs," Lawton said, but excludes travel that is merely adjacent. The prohibition against traversing the gaming floor arises out of Board policies to safeguard casino assets during closures.

The upshot? Casinos will need to get creative about the means of ingress and egress for some restaurants they choose to reopen; other restaurants, because of their location, might remain closed.

In addition, before reopening a restaurant, the property must provide the Board with a plan to "prevent customers from congregating outside of the restaurant prior to entry," the notice said.

The Gaming Control Board released the notice on May 14. By law, regulatory and enforcement submissions to the Board are confidential, so the Board cannot provide information, even generally, on casino plans to reopen restaurants.

@RGJTaste requested comment on reopening restaurants from eight leading properties in Reno and Sparks with noteworthy restaurants.

Bonanza Casino, which will soon celebrate its 50th year in Reno, has no current plans for its restaurants to resume service.

"We are old-school," said Ryan Sheltra, whose family owns the casino. "The restaurants are loss-leaders for the property. Opening the restaurants without the gaming doesn't make sense for us."

Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, through a spokesperson, said it "has not made any firm plans to re-open restaurants within the resort at this time."

@RGJTaste is still waiting for comment from Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, the Nugget Casino Resort, Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, and the trio of properties comprising the Row (Circus Circus Reno, Silver Legacy Resort Casino, Eldorado Resort Casino).

Casino restaurants also must follow the guidelines set forth in Phase 1 of Gov. Steve Sisolak's "Roadmap to Recovery," as well as follow any directives issued by their county commission or health district. Buffets remain closed.

Restaurants outside of casinos were permitted to resume service, with limitations, on May 9 pursuant to the Phase 1 guidelines.

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