By Michael P. Johnson
Prior to March 2020, when walking through the front doors of any casino resort hotel, whether it was on the Las Vegas Strip, in Atlantic City, or on the Mississippi Coast, you would typically spot a security officer, or two, or three, depending on the size of the resort, but not much else. Someone may have been standing there to check your identification or give you a general look over. Typically, no one really got worried about anything other than whether you were old enough to be in the casino.
Skip ahead a few months, and things have changed drastically. For one, many casino employees recently came off furlough. Some may not have come back at all. If you had once been a regular patron at any casino in the United States, and have only now returned to your local casino, you might notice that your favorite beverage server or bartender is missing, when you go to order a drink. Every dealer may not have made it back due to shortened casino hours. Your blackjack game may not be as great without your normal dealer.
When you walk through the front doors now, you’ll likely be met by someone wanting to take your temperature. They’ll give you a mask to wear should you not have one. Hand sanitizing stations are at your every turn. And if you’re a smoker, it’s a strong possibility that many casinos won’t allow you to light up. You see, you have to keep your mask on at all times, except for sipping a drink. Things have changed.
There have been capacity restrictions on just how many individuals can enter the casino. Where you’re at in the country and how many cases of Covid-19 are in your state depends on what your casino’s capacity restriction falls.
Capacity restrictions are interesting. Before the pandemic, you walked in and went straight to a machine or table game. No fuss. An identification check to make sure you’re of age probably occurred at some point, but now, it’s a bit different.
If the casino is busy, let’s say it’s a Friday or Saturday night, you’ll find yourself waiting in line, having your ID taken, scanned, and temperature taken. You’ll then be one of many numbers. At the entrance, once the security officers hit a certain number of people entering the property, they will stop the line. No one else will be able to enter.
Let’s say the casino is set at a 50% capacity restriction. There may be a total of 2,200 slot machines in the building. The executives then make it easy and say only 1,100 people can enter the casino (i.e.50% of the machines). When this occurred, every other machine would be placed out-of-service, so there would be only 1,100 machines in service for the 1,100 people allowed in the casino. As soon as there are people seen leaving the building, only the same number of people would be allowed to enter.
Different states have different rules, as well. For instance, you may have entered a casino in Arkansas and found the capacity restriction was set at 50%. You then drove down the highway a few miles and entered a casino in Mississippi, and the capacity restriction was a little higher, and no one was taking temperatures at the door as you walked in. It all depends on where you were located and the local regulations.
The state of Maryland, just this week, has loosened its restrictions. Only a few weeks ago, Maryland casinos had been following 25% to 50% capacity restrictions. The total gaming revenue for Maryland’s six privately-owned casinos in February was down 16.6% from a year ago.
Every state acts differently, and continues to do so. Some continue to lift their mandates. Others stand firm and continue to be strict.
In several states across the country, governors have begun to lift specific Covid-19 mandates. Texas, Maryland, Connecticut, Mississippi, Arizona, West Virginia, and Wyoming have gone ahead with their plans to lighten the restrictions as more people have been receiving vaccinations and Covid-19 cases have dipped.
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced two weeks ago that all businesses in the state would be allowed to open their doors to patrons at 50% capacity. According to Sisolak, Nevada has moved on from record infection and hospitalization rates, but the numbers are still too elevated for people to let their guard down. Clark County was pretty specific in their requirements.
Covid-19 and vaccinations.
Around the same time, the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in southern Mississippi came out and informed everyone that they would be giving their hourly employees $150 for each vaccination shot they received. Should the employee receive a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, they would be paid $300. If they accept the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, they’d be paid $150.
According to the CEO of the Scarlet Pearl, LuAnn Pappas, should the employee have had their vaccination before this announcement, they would be compensated retroactively. Another interesting aspect of the Scarlet Pearl announcement was that they have partnered with Gulfport’s Memorial Hospital to have an onsite vaccination area on their property. With this, employees at the Scarlet Pearl won’t have to go too far to receive their injections.
Doing what the Scarlet Pearl has done for their employees is essential. Vaccinations have proven to be safe so far, and the side effects mostly minor for the vast majority of the tens of millions who have received the vaccine, yet, many people are still a little hesitant about actually getting vaccinated.
In conclusion, as restrictions are being lifted throughout the country, it’s essential to stay safe. With state governors lifting state mandates but the pandemic still around, casinos are figuring out different ways to prioritize employee and patron safety and yet run a business.
About the writer: Michael P. Johnson is a technology writer from the Greater Memphis Area. Mr. Johnson has almost two decades of experience in the casino industry, utilizing tech daily. You can read more about his work on his website, or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also write to us: email@example.com