Published: April 5, 2021

Gaming regulators: Nevada casinos must get workforce vaccinated to merit capacity increases

Nevada casinos operators looking to increase their gaming floor capacity past the 50% threshold will be tasked with making sure their workforce has received the COVID-19 vaccine, gaming officials said today.

In joint memo issued by the state’s Gaming Control Board and Gaming Commission, regulators encouraged gaming companies to provide paid time off for employees to be vaccinated, coordinate transportation to vaccine sites and enter into agreements with pharmacy companies for distribution.

The boards will be given authority May 1 from the state to approve reopening plans and occupancy limits for properties as the state emerges from pandemic closures.

“Hospitality workers, many of which are front-of-house personnel interacting with visitors from around the globe, are critically positioned to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 both within the industry, and the community as a whole,” the memo stated. “Such viral surges are a continuing threat to the economic health of the gaming industry and greater state, as they threaten the hard-fought efforts undertaken over the last year to safely reopen.”

Gaming floor capacity was increased from 25% to 50% March 15 by the state. Once the regulatory bodies take over, the strongly-worded memo says requests by operators to increase casino floor occupancy limits “will only be taken in cases where licensees have taken measurable and material steps” to vaccinate their workforce.

By sending the notice, regulators from the commission and the board, which work in tandem to oversee Nevada’s gaming industry, said the new guidelines are necessary under their mandate by state law to “protect the public health, safety, morals, good order, and general welfare of the inhabitants” of Nevada.

Many gaming companies are already taking steps to help employees receive the vaccine, including MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts, which all recently released information about on-site inoculating clinics at local properties.

Las Vegas-based Station Casinos will also begin to offer vaccinations at clinics at six of its Las Vegas Valley properties on Tuesday.

Beginning late last month, the Cosmopolitan, in partnership with Impact Health, started offering complimentary on-site vaccinations for its employees and direct family members.

Caesars said last month that it will be able to offer 10,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to its Las Vegas employees, a process that began Thursday.

An MGM spokeswoman said the company is now offering free vaccinations for employees and their immediate family members at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“Vaccination is a critically important took in helping to end the pandemic and accelerate our community’s economic recovery,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We’re committed to doing all that we can to help get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible by removing barriers to access and bringing vaccination clinics directly to our employees and their families.”

Most messages left for Las Vegas casino representatives for reaction to the memo were not immediately returned Friday evening, though a Circa Las Vegas spokeswoman said in an email that the casino “will be complying with all recommendations.”

A Boyd Gaming spokesman said the company had no comment on the new guidelines.

Inoculation drives have expanded in tiers since mid-December statewide, amid limited vaccine supplies.

Supplies have increased and Gov. Steve Sisolak has directed that everyone age 16 and older will be eligible for shots beginning Monday.

More than 18% of the Nevada population is fully vaccinated, the state Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday, including nearly 334,000 people in the Las Vegas area. Almost one in three people statewide has begun the vaccination process.

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