Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control board released a document that casinos have been waiting for. The COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols is a 10 page document that outlines safety and health related requirements that casinos must meet in order to reopen. According to Kevin O’Toole, the Executive Director of the Board, the operational requirements are based on best-practice guidelines as well as plans submitted by gaming companies in the state. The requirements are subject to amendment as the venues get closer to the reopening stage.
O’Toole stated further that the plan will be effective because it will mitigate and reduce the risk of exposure of the coronavirus for employees and guests. As conditions in the state improve, casinos will be authorized to reopen. The Board desires that the reopenings take place in a manner that is safe and includes proper regulatory oversight.
For visitors, the gaming experience in Pennsylvania will be different than in the past. For starters, guests will be required to wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose. Patrons will also be asked to remove hats or lower their mask when entering the venue, but only temporarily.
Markings will be placed on casino floors to help with six-feet social distancing requirements. Occupancy rates will be lower to help with maintaining social distancing. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be offered on the game floor. Cleaning will be enhanced throughout every facility.
Poker rooms are not allowed to operate at this time due to the need for players to handle chips and cards. In the future, poker room operations will be re-evaluated as the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health change guidelines.
Casinos are required to have a pandemic safety officer on-site, which can be an existing employee. The staff members at entry points will need to be trained on recognizing signs of illness as well as ask people if they have had a fever or been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Anyone who answers yes will need to be blocked from entering the casino.
Slot Machine and Table Game Protocols
For slots and table games, casinos in the state must make changes that will ensure players are social distanced and areas are clean. For slots, plexiglass barriers should be installed between machines. Chairs are to be removed from certain machines and some machines shut down. Slots are also to be cleaned frequently with a disinfectant when not in use. Players should also have access to sanitizing wipes for cleaning a machine before playing.
For table games, absolutely no congregating can take place around the tables. High touch points must be cleaned regularly. This includes card shoes, dice, table bumpers. Chips are to be cleaned and sanitized each day. Additional methods can be used to help limit players touching chips and cards, such as using plexiglass barriers between the player and dealer.
For employees of Pennsylvania casinos, there is also a set of guidelines. Every employee must wear a mask and they can choose to wear translucent gloves. Training of COVID-19 is required. Employees may be subject to temperature screenings.
Employees must take breaks when working in the public to wash hands and sanitize to reduce the risk of surface transmission. Employees in environmental services must have masks, gloves and disinfectant spray to clean all touch surfaces.
These guidelines are the minimum that casinos in the state must follow to reopen. It will be interesting to see how the operators proceed when casinos begin to reopen in Pennsylvania.