Las Vegas Reopening: Are Casinos Taking an Unnecessary Risk By Not Requiring Masks?

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Denise Truscello, Getty Images.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

It better.

Vegas has opened again after an unprecedented 78 days in the dark and yes, there’s a new normal.

There are temperature checks at the door with guests registering over 100.4 degrees being asked to leave. Chips and dice have been washed. Sportsbook ticket-writers are wiping down counters after each bettor. Hand sanitizer stations appear to be within view everywhere, seats have been removed and social distancing has been encouraged.

But somehow a requirement that patrons wear masks is a non-starter.

And with that, Las Vegas businesses are saying, “This thing is over.”

If there’s any city that would do this, it’s Vegas. You know, the city whose mayor, Carolyn Goodman, said she would open up back in late April to serve as control group to see how the Coronavirus spread.

Much has changed since Goodman’s appearance on Anderson Cooper. There is a lot more data available and we’ve certainly flattened the curve. On Thursday, the same day that casinos were allowed to open, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced that there wasn’t a single death in the entire state related to COVID-19.

But opening up means people from outside the state are coming in, which could complicate things.

Is requiring customers to wear a mask, at least in the short term as we continue to collect data on how the virus reacts to the re-opening of society, not a reasonable request?

Casinos control so much when you are in their little world. From the air to the smell to the lighting to well, whatever rules they want. Cell phones away. No pictures of the odds boards. It wouldn’t be out of the norm for the house to throw another rule, albeit a temporary one, onto the list. Especially one that has very little downside.

But they have stopped short here for some reason. While every casino is requiring employees to wear a mask, only the Wynn, MGM and Caesars are encouraging guests to wear a covering over their face but weren’t pressured by the Nevada Gaming Control Board to make it anything more than an “encouragement.”

As someone in the New York City area, my learning curve went at warp speed. One week, I was embarrassed to wear a mask at a supermarket. A week later, it was expected. Now, it’s the people who aren’t wearing masks that are the outliers.

Of course this isn’t apples to apples. The virus’ impact wildly varies from region to region. My county of 800,000 people had 1,700 deaths. The entire state of Nevada has lost a little more than 400 people in a state that has four times the population.

It just says a lot to me that all of these businesses are willing to risk opening up without the requirement of masks. Given that there are thousands of lawsuits a year around the world over bedbugs in hotels, you gotta think these casinos are taking an unnecessary risk.

Casinos stay in business because they know the odds. But what happens when that isn’t the case?

What we’ve gone through is unprecedented. And while the world is yearning to get back to normalcy and the momentum so far is great, this is one of very few times where the house doesn’t know the odds and they’re the ones rolling the dice.

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