Nevada Culinary Union Uneasy About Returning to Casinos Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic

This week, the city of Las Vegas as well as other cities in Nevada that offer casino gaming are preparing to get back to work. Governor Steve Sisolak announced last week that casinos can reopen on June 4th. The state’s Gaming Control Board updated their policy on health and safety, outlining requirements to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. Gaming companies followed this announcement by revealing which properties they would reopen first, working to protect their employees and guests.

While the process has begun, the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 of Nevada is not happy with how things are going. The group represents around 60,000 employees who work at casino resorts in the state. Such individuals are employed as cooks, attendants of guest rooms, bartenders, baristas, cashiers and porters, among many other positions. These workers are expected to be on the job by Friday and are not really ready to do so.

Feeling Uncomfortable

Bethany Khan, a spokeswoman for the Union, stated that the plans for reopening submitted by casinos to the Gaming Control Board need to be made available to the public. The agency keeps these plans confidential citing state law. However, the gaming companies can choose to share their plans if they want to.

According to Khan, the Union feels that the public deserves to know what the plans are as it is a matter of life and death. UNITE HERE is the parent organization of the union who recently issued guidelines they feel that gaming properties should follow during the pandemic. The guidelines were released several weeks ago and includes recommendations such as testing employees, providing personal protective equipment, and sanitizing gaming equipment.

The union feels that regulators did not go far enough regarding the recommendations they put in place for operators. The union suggests that guests should be offered masks by casinos and be asked to wear them when in public areas. Regulators only stipulated that the properties make masks available on request.

Reassurance Needed

The members of the union want reassurance that they are going to be protected while at work. Khan called the policy of the Gaming Control Board disappointing and said the concerns of the union have fallen on deaf ears. She pointed out that the union wants to know that employees will be able to access more than one face mask per shift if they need to.

They essentially want to know exactly what to expect from each property. Many operators have revealed their plans, detailing what they are going to do and how things will operate once they are back in action.

Several operators have plans to provide temperature screening for employees as well as guests. Cleaning protocols have been expanded along with sanitization stations throughout the property. Employees are supposed to be trained on the new cleaning methods as well as other changes on-site.

Social distancing is also a concern. Many properties like MGM and Wynn have outlined how social distancing will work. Properties are limiting how many players are at the gaming tables as well as spreading out slot machines. Markings will also be placed throughout the casino properties to remind guests of social distancing protocols.

It will be interesting to see once the casinos are up and running what the environment will look like. Will players readily visit the casinos and play their favorite games? Will the guests adhere to social distancing restrictions and wear a mask on-site? Answers to these questions should be revealed by June 4th once the casinos start to reopen their doors.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.