Nevada Casinos Receive Regulator Citations For Not Following Safety Protocols

Posted on August 12, 2020 - Last Updated on August 19, 2020

Nevada casinos are open again at reduced capacity and with safety protocols to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has cited and will potentially fine Sahara Las Vegas and its sister property Grand Sierra Resort for failure to comply with protocols.

These two properties are the latest among a growing list of complaints.

Sahara citation references large group meeting

Last week the NGCB filed a complaint against Sahara Las Vegas.

Filed on Aug. 3, the complaint cites Gov. Steve Sisolak‘s emergency directive regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Sisolak’s directive included a restriction against gatherings of more than 50 people. The directive also required the NGCB to provide guidance to gaming licensees for the safe resumption of gaming operations.

In response, the board produced a set of health and safety policies which licensees must follow.

The complaint cites one instance of Sahara failing to comply with Gov. Sisolak’s directive against large gatherings. A local trade organization held a luncheon meeting in one of its conference rooms in July. There were approximately 135 persons in attendance at the luncheon.

A Sahara representative indicated there had been a “misunderstanding.” Sahara believed they had been given verbal approval from the NGCB to host the luncheon meeting.

The complaint also cites three instances of the casino failing to comply with the board’s prohibition against groups forming around table games.

In June, an agent of the board witnessed non-playing patrons congregating around a craps table, a blackjack table and a slot machine.

Afterward, Sahara responded with a statement acknowledging the importance of the safety guidelines and social distancing protocols and its intention to follow them going forward.

Grand Sierra complaint includes failure to wear masks

Last Friday, the NGCB filed a similar complaint against Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. The GSR is a sister property to Sahara Las Vegas, both owned by the Meruelo Group.

The GSR complaint concerned requirements for patrons and employees to wear mandatory face coverings in public spaces and to practice social distancing protocols.

The complaint describes three instances in June and July of patrons either failing to wear face coverings or wearing them improperly. It also lists one instance of a host failing to do so.

The NGCB additionally cites an instance of inadequate social distancing. An agent saw “a queue of at least 50 patrons” waiting for elevators and GSR employees not correcting the situation.

Grand Sierra Resort responded to the complaint in a statement resembling Sahara’s response. The property acknowledged the importance of the policies, and noted its immediate correction of the cited issues.

After reviewing the complaints, the Nevada Gaming Commission will decide about fines and/or any suspension or revoking of licenses.

Board agents keeping close watch, investigations continue

The Grand Sierra Resort complaint is the sixth filed by the NGCB regarding gaming properties’ noncompliance with COVID-related protocols.

There may well be more complaints coming. In late July, the NGCB noted over 10,000 agent inspections had been conducted. Those investigations have resulted in more than 150 active investigations of potential violations.

Meanwhile, the industry waits to see whether fines or other penalties are assessed for those whose noncompliance earns regulators’ complaints.

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.

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