Policies, COVID-19 regulations breached
The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) has doled out a total of $435,000 in fines to casinos for COVID-19 regulatory complaints filed mostly in July and August, and for a breach of policy.
The no-nonsense approach backs up Governor Steve Sisolak’s late July warning of “no more excuses” for businesses and casino operators flaunting the state’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Of the total fines, by far the biggest was slapped on Boyd Gaming Corp. The $300,000 fine relates to policy, however, not the pandemic. It involves a November 2019 incident in which a woman was falsely accused of theft and wrongfully detained by security officers employed at Boyd’s Fremont Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas.
NCG chairman John Moran Jr., considered a higher fine
NCG chairman John Moran Jr., considered a greater fine, but opted against it, as it was the first time Boyd had faced a Commission disciplinary hearing, along with other extenuating factors. Boyd’s Executive VP Steve Thompson has since apologized for the incident.
The remaining $135,000 worth of fines contain a mixed bag of COVID-19 violations, from properties with non-compliant bar top slots, to a luncheon gathering almost tripling the maximum 50-person capacity.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal tweeted news of the $435,000 in fines on Thursday.
The Meruelo Group – which operates the Sahara on the Strip and the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno – was fined a total of $75,000. The Sahara’s charges stem from non-players not observing social distancing and 135 people attending a lunch despite a 50-person cap on gatherings.
Grand Sierra’s offenses were of a social distancing and mask-wearing nature. Senior VP Paul Hobson and GP Shauna Keep signed the agreement Wednesday, the Review-Journal reported.
An anonymous tip about mask violations at Cod Casino, which was followed up by an NGC agent, resulted in a $30,000 penalty. Six bar top slots contravened regulations at Cheers in Winnemucca and drew a $15,000 fine.
Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall in Ely fell foul of employee and customer mask rules, earning a $10,000 fine. Incline Bowl’s improper bar top slot protocol received the mildest fine, $5,000.
While admitting the fines were not too onerous, Brandon Bussmann, director of government affairs for Vegas-based Global Market Advisors LLC, said they “sent a message that regulations have to be taken seriously.”
this is an enforcement era as opposed to an education era”
“As the governor said, this is an enforcement era as opposed to an education era and down the way, you might see more severe fines than what were levied today” Bussmann added.
Sisolak’s era of enforcement was in the cards July 2, after the Nevada Gaming Control Board launched an investigation into 111 cases of casinos reported to be flaunting health and safety protocols.
Fast forward to this week’s raft of fines – confirmation that Nevada’s era of enforcement is well underway. With agents in the field, casinos that ignore protocols, or are lax in enforcing them, risk paying the price.