After months of being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Nevada is hoping to get gambling operations running again on June 4. That plan, which was approved on May 27, may now be in some doubt due to the ongoing unrest in America caused by the death of George Floyd, but looks like it’s still likely to push through in one form or another. Our Becky Liggero Fontana caught up with Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan to understand the plan, and how it’s expected to go down.
“We’re in such unprecedented times, but with those unprecedented times definitely require unprecedented measures,” Douglass Morgan said. “And so the Gaming Control Board issued an industry notice setting forth two policies, one for our larger properties that we call non-restrictive licensees, and one for the smaller ones, bars and taverns with 15 machines or less, telling them that they would have to affirm that they would comply with those guidelines, and for the larger properties they would need to submit a plan. And so our goal was to create universal standards through these policies that could cover the largest integrated resort and the smallest one, but putting an employee training and safety, and patron safety, first and foremost that’s the most important thing for our policies and our plan.”
The first priority is to ensure the risk of Covid-19 spreading is as low as possible. “And so obviously all properties would have to be deep, deep cleaned and disinfected prior to reopening, but I just had to reiterate time and time again employee training and safety, you know we are the capital for hospitality and we know that when people come to Las Vegas and even Nevada as a hole that they know they’re going to receive that high level customer service, and customer service includes also feeling safe and being safe,” she said. “And we’ve seen some of our operators already published some of their plans that show that they’re really going to give the white glove treatment to people who come to their properties, and so we know that we’re going to do this right we’re going to make sure that people are safe and prepared and hopefully it’ll be, it will be a little different than I think what people are used to, but Nevada is known for recreating and doing new and innovative things, I’m sure people will still have a good time.”
In a large way though, the damage has already been done, as gambling operations have lost millions during this shutdown. Liggero Fontana asked what will be done by the state to help the casinos recoup their losses. “The actual tax structure would be determined by the Nevada Legislature, but there are certain things within our regulations that we could do. For example when we have to shut down, taxes are actually going to be due on the 15th, you know unfortunately for this week that will be zero because everything’s been closed, but for March, what we said is, even though that taxes should have been paid for half of that month, they only had a pay for one slot machine at the time of closure, or one table game that was open at the time of closure.”
Douglass Morgan expects that’s not the only efforts that will be made, but the legislature will need to step in to do anything more. “We’ll definitely, I’m sure, be working and the industry, we’re working with a legislature as soon as a special session is called,” she said. “We only meet every other year in Nevada and so our regular session would at the time in February in 2021, but I think most people anticipate that we will have a special session now later on this year.”
One of the ways the NGCB has cooperated with the sportsbooks to keep their numbers up was been to approve new esports action. “The ability to actually wager on esports was actually approved from a regulatory perspective back in late 2016,” Douglass Morgan noted. “And it’s interesting, when I became chair I think in January of 2019, a lot of questions about esports, a lot of questions about skill based gaming, which is great, you want to find new ways to attract different people to the gaming sphere, but we only had about five request from sportsbooks to wager on esports at that time.”
But as we’ve seen from many industry insiders, esports can only do so much. Liggero Fontana asked if there’s been a broader push for online gambling, either by the casinos themselves or the population. “From the board’s perspective, there’s really, we haven’t really discussed expanding to online casino gaming,” she admitted. “I know that’s definitely been a topic, I probably asked, been asked more than by the media than actual operators that have been seeking to do that, because Nevada is obviously very, very different. I mean anywhere in the state you can easily drive somewhere to play today, whereas that’s different in other states. There’s kind of like a sort of obviously Las Vegas, a big pocket of a large gaming operation, that anywhere and actually even in rural areas you can actually drive somewhere to get books or to get to a gambling machine or a table.”
It’s still a matter of time before we see if any casinos actually reopen on June 4, as the presence of protestors and now the National Guard could derail things, but Douglass Morgan is ready to resume same gambling if it does.