Keeping your casino safe under the COVID-19 Pandemic
By Bill Zender
With months of COVID-19 pandemic experience under our belt we can make a more educated choice concerning what works the best regarding the protection of casino customers and employees from infection. I still have not seen anything positive or negative on the use of table and slot machine plexiglass partitions. It can safely be assumed that these individual barriers help protect people from COVID-19 aerosol particles when social distancing cannot be observed. This same situation exists with casino air handling systems. Air handlers that pull air up and away from the casino floor and utilize advanced filtration and/or UV sanitizing methods may reduce the number of infectious particles in the air, but to what extent I do not know. That leaves the basic, everyday protection as the day-to-day safeguard. These safeguards need to be adhered to religiously by casino management in order to protect everyone present on the casino floor.
The top three procedures for keeping your casino safe during the pandemic are:
Wearing protective face masks
As the customer walks through your doors, they must wear a protective face mask (if they do not have one available, give them one). The face mask must cover their nose and mouth. Masks that only cover the mouth or their nose are not acceptable.
Making sure everyone wears a protective face mask, everyone! This includes your employee, management personal, and vendors while on property. But most import, ALL customers at ALL TIMES must wear a mask while in the casino area. No exceptions!
If you have customers who do not want to wear a mask, they can not come in the door. Your doors are the easiest screening points in accomplishing this task since someone refusing to mask-up is not allowed in. Once the customer is inside, the masks must always be worn properly while in the gaming area. Any customer who removes his or her mask will be given a chance to put the mask back in place. Customer’s who refuse to keep their masks properly positioned on their face must be escorted off the property. If management “falters” and does not strictly enforce proper mask protocol, they are placing their guests and employee’s health (and lives) in danger. For more information on face mask: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html, and https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/your-face-mask-protects-you-in-more-ways-than-one-study-finds/ar-BB17hyPy?li=BBnb7Kz.
Hand washing and/or sanitizing
Once the customer enters the building, you must ask them to wash and/or sanitize their hands. Every entrance into the casino needs to have a sanitizing/washing station available to everyone in that immediate area. After donning a mask, every customer must sanitize their hands at once. By immediately sanitizing their hands, the chance of fomite transmission of infection (hand to surface to recipient) is greatly reduced. When the customers touch the tables, chair, chips, and playing cards, the chance of passing even minute portions of infection particles is all but eliminated [see the CDC’s information regarding fomite transmission: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-coronavirus-doesnt-spread-easily-on-surfaces-transmission-before-symptoms/]. In addition, it is STRONGLY ADVISED that customers are asked to sanitize their hands before sitting down to play on a table game. This will require the floor placement of a number of sanitizing stations, including induvial bottles of sanitizer available in the pit area.
Note: Some commercially sold hand sanitizers contain an alcohol-based substance known as methanol that can be hazardous to a person’s health if used too often and in large quantities. Be sure your sanitizer is safe and contains enough alcohol-based ingredient (CDC requires 60% to 95%) to dissolve the Corona Virus. For more information: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexandrasternlicht/2020/07/21/these-75-hand-sanitizers-have-been-recalled-by-the-fda-for-methanol-contamination/#2c140f927323.
Attempting to keep customers separated to comply with social distancing requirements is still important even inside the casino. Social distancing is rather simple to control and maintain with customers standing in line to use the cage, kiosks, and other essential facilities. Table games and slot machines are a different story. Social distancing can be accomplished by using plexiglass partitions between slot machines and table game betting boxes. In addition, care must be taken by the casino to place barriers around the table games to keep players from standing next to the tables, or non-playing customers from congregating in numbers on the casino floor. While this element of social distancing is extremely difficult to enforce, it is an especially important proponent if your casino is dedicated in keeping your customers safe and healthy. The following link is the CDC guidance on social distancing https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html
Other areas of concern
Testing for temperature when entering the building. I do not place a high value on this procedure because most temperature testing methods (hand devices and cameras) are very unreliable and inaccurate. However, it is a good deterrence for keeping someone running a fever from trying to enter the casino. In addition, all employees need to be screened in the same manner. I know of casino employees who were sick and running fevers, who tried to sneak into work anyway. It is especially important to keep the employees safe from each other as well as from the customers.
Dealers to wear face shields. The face mask is not used to protect the person wearing it. It used to protect others from possible infection released by the mask wearer. PPE face protection such as masks that are rated N95 or KN95 are used to protect the person wearing them but are in short supply and impossible to find. In place of a N95 mask, the person can wear a face shield in addition to their face mask. The shield presents a barrier that protects not only the persons mouth and nose, but also their eyes, the three most common entry points of COVID-19 infection into the body. If your casino is “insane” enough not to mandate that casino customers must wear face masks at all times, your employee must be provided face shields if they deal the games or are in close proximity to the customers (within 6 feet of the customers). This could include dealers, floor persons, cocktail staff, cashiers, hosts, etc.
No smoking and no sale of alcoholic beverages. Why no smoking? Two primary reasons, first, customers that smoke remove their face masks to do so. Some will smoke as a reason to remove their face mask without being ejected from the casino. The second reason is the exhale of cigarette smoke is projected away from the individual unlike normal breathing which doesn’t travel as far linearly. It should be noted that the exhalation of cigarette smoke projection has been mentioned in articles, but it has not been substantiated clinically as a threat.
Why shouldn’t casinos offer and/or sell alcoholic beverages? This is more of a cooperation issue. Customer are much more likely to follow the COVID-19 safety procedures set forth by the casino when they are sober than they would be when under the influence of alcohol. Try explaining to someone who has had a few too many cocktails that they need to put their face mask back on.Nasopharyngeal Swab Testing of all front-line employees. Based on limited availability of testing kits, length of time between testing and test results, and the inaccuracy of some tests at this present time has rendered nasopharyngeal swab testing impractical. If the time comes when testing is available, results are quick, and test results are extremely accurate, this procedure is a must for all responsible casino operations.