Public needs to be able to see resorts' casino reopening plans

Sunday 17th May 2020

It seems one of the most important things Nevada's casinos must do when they open their doors -- whenever that is -- would be to make customers comfortable with the environment they'll be entering when they arrive.

The state Gaming Control Board is requiring every licensee, from the megaresorts on the Strip to the corner gas station convenience store slot machine operators, to submit reopening plans. They're supposed to be detailed documents focusing on the health and safety of employees and patrons in this new era of coronavirus infections.

While it would seem a full public disclosure of these plans would be beneficial to the entire industry, the Control Board intends to keep them confidential.

This is one of those instances in which a pooling of resources, sharing best practices for keeping surfaces disinfected, encouraging social distancing and explaining how an operator is going to screen customers at entry points would be beneficial to everybody.

Even customers are going to be interested in checking what companies are going to do to keep them safe. And some of them have already stepped up and made their plans public.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. was the first to share what the company plans to do. In its 24-page document, the company disclosed that it would have thermal cameras at limited access points and that it wouldn't allow any employee or guest into the building if they're found to have a temperature higher than 100 degrees.

In the hotel, no more than four guests would be permitted inside elevators at a time and an employee would be present to disinfect the button panels at regular intervals, at least once an hour.

Slot machines will be turned off or reconfigured with chairs removed to allow for physical separation between guests. Casino supervisors and managers will be responsible for ensuring that guests do not congregate around slots.

Table games will have chairs removed and every other table will be open and supervisors will prevent groups from congregating there.

Regulators and union leaders have applauded Wynn for the detail it offered in its health and disinfection program document. Some other companies also have made their plans available or have posted them on their websites.

But the Control Board's reluctance to make those plans available is unfortunate.

Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan said the reason the board isn't disclosing them is that a section of the Nevada Revised Statutes, specifically NRS 463.120, allows the board and the Nevada Gaming Commission to treat certain information it receives as confidential.

We're not talking about trade secrets or disclosing materials that would give a company a competitive advantage to a rival or criminal acts by a prospective licensee. This is information that employees and guests need to know before they set foot inside a resort.

I requested copies of submitted policies and when denied, asked if I could at least be informed when a licensee submitted a plan. I figured I could follow up with the individual companies since they are required to turn in their plans at least seven days before a planned reopening. That request also was declined.

Without the help of the Gaming Control Board, it'll be up to casino companies to make their plans public. One would think they'd want to do that, if nothing else, to show some of the proactive things they're doing.

It's also possible that Gov. Steve Sisolak could issue an executive order requiring the Control Board to release reopening plans. Such orders have the force of law and could suspend, at least temporarily, the confidentiality of reports the public needs to see.

However it's done, it's essential if we're going to try to get millions of people to return to Las Vegas at a time we certainly need their patronage.

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