Face Masks Now Required for Nevada Casino-Goers as COVID-19 Cases Increase

The Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a new notice Wednesday, ordering casinos across the state to require patrons to wear protective face masks as coronavirus cases there continue to rise.

"Based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has updated its policy for nonrestricted [sic] licensees in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 between people who are in close contact with each other for at least 15 minutes," the notice stated.

"Licensees must require patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition, or shield between the dealer and each player. This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators, and any other person within 6 feet of any table or card game."

Casinos across Nevada first began opening on June 4, after being closed down due to the state's coronavirus restrictions, in an effort to slow the spread.

The new mask policy applies to all casino-goers playing table games--such as blackjack, roulette, craps and poker--as well as all casino employees. In addition to the new requirement, the policy also stated that while other casino patrons--including those playing the slot machines--are not required to wear a mask, the casinos must offer them and provide them for guests upon request.

"Upon entering the gaming establishment, licensees must offer all patrons and guests a face covering or have dedicated signage throughout the establishment notifying patrons that face coverings are available," the policy said.

Coronavirus in U.S.
Guests play roulette at Excalibur Hotel & Casino after the Las Vegas Strip property opened for the first time since being closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on June 11, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller/Getty

While speaking with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Sandra Morgan, chairwoman of the Control Board, suggested that prior to the policy, the use of masks in casinos was "significantly declining."

"In the first week (after the June 4 reopening of casinos), we wanted to take an approach of communicating and encouraging compliance and talk to licensees about what our expectations were, but in the second week, it became abundantly clear based on our agents' observations that patrons' usage of masks was significantly declining," Morgan said.

"We were at least able to agree that face coverings (were needed) at table games, if there's not going to be Plexiglas or any other kind of barrier," Morgan added. "The lack of individual patron responsibility is disappointing to say the least so we have to do at least what we can to ensure that the gaming employees have some protection as well."

The new mask policy in Nevada casinos comes as the state continues to see an increase in cases of the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19. On Tuesday, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reported a new single-day high number of cases with 379, topping a previous high of 295 new cases on May 22.

Across Nevada, the majority of cases stem from Clark County where Las Vegas and many of the state's casinos are located. According to the state's Department of Health, there are currently over 9,000 confirmed cases in Clark County as well as at least 387 deaths.

This increase in cases has brought the state's total number to at least 12,076 confirmed cases and 475 deaths.

In an email sent to Newsweek, the Nevada Gaming Control Board stated that, "during the first week of reopening, the Nevada Gaming Control Board encouraged compliance and informed licensees of our expectation. In the second week, Board agents observed a decline in patrons wearing face masks."

"While most casino workers have the ability to move around a gaming property, dealers are confined to one location for an hour at a time and are exposed to several patrons and casual observers. As such, the Board issued an Industry Notice requiring patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition, or shield between the dealer and each player. This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators, and any other person within 6 feet of any table or card game," the statement added.

Updated June 19, 2020, 10:00 a.m. ET, to include a statement from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.