By Kayla Anderson
In mid-May, Governor Steve Sisolak announced that it is looking at June 4 for when Nevada casinos can reopen as part of its next phase of reopening as long as they follow proper health code and safety protocols to keep their patrons protected. Therefore, Reno and Sparks casinos have been scrambling to reconfigure their hotel/gaming facilities to comply with the new codes.
At the Nugget Casino Resort, every employee will be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work and when they do return, they will be required to wear a mask. The Nugget stated that every department is trained in how to continually clean and disinfect surfaces and touch points as recommended by the CDC and required by the appropriate health authorities.
Here’s what else is new in the Nugget’s reopening:
Mandatory temperature checks: Points of entry will be monitored by a security team that will conduct temperature checks for all guests and employees. If any person attempting to enter the building has a temperature over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they may not be allowed to enter the Nugget (employees will get a second temperature screening).
Masks are encouraged: Employees must wear a face mask and will be trained on how to effective use PPE, but masks are not required for guests. They will be available to purchase in the Nugget’s gift shop.
Keeping your hands clean: Hand sanitizer will be placed all around the building and it is recommended that people wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and not touch their face.
Staying six feet apart from people you don’t know: The Nugget is asking people to practice social distancing while waiting in lines, waiting for the elevator, and moving around the property. The Nugget has signage placed around the building to remind people where to stand.
Protective acrylic (aka “sneeze”) shields are installed: At restaurant cashier, front desk and player services stations.
Along with following the new health protocols for employees and guests, people should be aware that certain services have changed like valet parking and bell service will be unavailable, front desk check-in stations are spaced six feet apart, and elevator cabs are limited to five people and will be put out of service to be cleaned/disinfected.
The Nugget will only reopen with a limited number of rooms and the casino floor will only be running at 50 percent capacity- every other slot machine will be available for use and table games seating will be limited. Neither Keno nor poker will be available at the initial onset and the William Hill sportsbook will come back as collegiate and professional sports get going again.
Four of the Nugget’s restaurants will open (they ask that you call ahead to make a reservation), meeting space will be available with reduced capabilities, and the pool will be open. Shuttle buses will not be running.
After being closed since March 18, the hotel and casino plan on gradually reopening service areas as more directives are issued from the state and local health departments. The Nugget plans on opening Anthony’s Chophouse on Friday, May 29 at 5 p.m. and Starbucks, Rosie’s, and the Oyster Bar on June 4.
“We started working on the (Reopening Guidelines) plan as soon as we were ordered to closed down and communicated to our team members what to expect,” says Nugget General Manager Mark Sterbens. The Nugget then figured out how to get access to COVID-19 tests and secured 15,000 FDA-approved PCR ones to use for employees scheduled to come back to work. “And we will have the ongoing ability to test both employees and customers going forward,” Sterbens says.
He reiterated that the Nugget has spaced out the casino floor and its bars to allow for social distancing and further limited the number of people who can be at certain table games.
The Nugget purchased 13 fogging machines to be used for its hotel rooms and service outlets to re-sanitize surfaces after a guest has checked out or the restaurants have closed (after employees go through their normal cleaning or housekeeping procedures) and the Nugget also has new no-contact thermal cameras on order.
“We’re trying to go above and beyond what the guidelines are,” Sterbens says.
He adds that they will be taking digital thermometer readings as people walk through the doors (“it’s a two-second process via those forehead thermometers,” says Sterbens) and in the event that someone looked symptomatic, officials would isolate the person, call their healthcare provider, and either call an ambulance or allow the guest to drive home.
“We’re taking every precaution and be forward thinking in implementing everything we can to keep our employees and guests safe,” says Sterbens.
As casinos in other states get open and they are looking at cash flow forecasts, Sterbens is anticipating being up to 50 percent down of normal revenues.
“Models show that casinos in Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Louisiana, and Mississippi are doing well so hopefully there will be some pent-up demand for the restaurants and hotel and that will carry over to the casino,” Sterbens explains. “We heard that the customers that came in were wearing masks, following protocol and still having fun, so we hope for that here,” he adds.
The Nugget also has a plan to open its event center.
“We have some events planned…a couple of weddings in June were cancelled but we anticipate having a gun show in June,” Sterbens says. They met with the event organizer on May 26 to see what adjustments need to be made to accommodate the gun show, but Sterbens says that one room holds 250 people and it’s large enough for everyone to practice social distancing.
The Nugget will also try to open up to 750 of its 1392 hotel rooms and monitor the activity and social distancing between its guests.
It will definitely be an adjustment for gamers and hotel guests, but Sterbens is hoping to get back to normal by this autumn.
“We’re very thankful to the community doing what they need to do to get through this pandemic. Washoe County and its residents responded to this well; we’re excited and ready to open,” Sterbens says.
Photo cutline: The Nugget Resort and Casino in Sparks has announced its planned guidelines to reopen next month.
By Kayla Anderson