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HOME > > Ask the Slot Expert: A reader's recent trip to Las Vegas

Ask the Slot Expert: A reader's recent trip to Las Vegas

18 November 2020

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: We were in Las Vegas the first week of November as planned. Here is what we observed to hopefully help others who are thinking about a visit.

We (2 couples) stayed at separate locations; I stayed at the California downtown, the other couple stayed near the Silverton. We each were satisfied with our respective accommodations. We visited each other's casino gaming for variety. We also visited other casinos; Fremont, Binions, the D, and the new Circa. A quick note: if you are a sports gambler, the Circa sports stadium is a must see! includes an escalator within the seating area, really.

Each casino had different methods of screening; some did facial scans (Boyd properties), while others did nothing other than a visual past security personnel. The Circa was very concerned about looking at a photo ID of all who entered (we are all obviously over 21), due to their claim to be strictly an 'Over 21' casino designation; a little excessive, but not that big a deal. It was not busy on a Tuesday afternoon, but I can see a problem on a weekend night with lines. I will choose to NOT go in if that is the case.

With regard to gaming; all employees had masks on, at all casinos, all table games had plastic shields separating players. This limited the number of players at card games, but even though the same number of people can play at craps or roulette, the 'vibe' was not there because casual observers who may be attracted to the 'action' cannot be close enough to see with all the shields up! If you are a shooter at craps, it's a challenge to 'throw the bones'. The stickman has the hardest job -- just watch, you will see.

Slot and video games usually had chairs and stools missing between games to encourage 'social distancing'. If I wanted to sit next to my spouse, I would move a chair over next to her, and return it when I am done playing.

We found usually adequate sanitizers stands and dispensers every 15-20 feet, so that was heartening. Dis-heartening was the lack of 'casino buzz' or the usual feeling you get when people are enjoying themselves. Was all too muted, I think, and unfortunately, the casinos themselves looked to be suffering from that same malady; simply it just wasn't busy enough to be lively! It did start to pick up on Friday, we flew out Saturday afternoon. Worth noting, we did not go to the Strip, so I cannot remark about that.

Restaurants were adequate enough, but some had changed hours, limiting options at our hotel. At another restaurant, the 'special' ran out at 6:30, which is why we chose that place to begin with. Other food options were fine, but...(I won't name, after all, restaurants all need our business).

All in all, we had a nice, quiet vacation, weather was extremely nice. We also did not go to outlying casinos, like Red Rock, or Green Valley on this trip, even though we had a rented car. We just bounced back and forth between our places. On the plane ride back, we were planning for a February return to Las Vegas.

We will see you 'at the tables!'

Answer: Unlike other states -- some with higher test positivity rates -- Nevada has a mask mandate, which has been in effect since late June. Compliance is nearly 100%, at least in my section of Las Vegas. Occasionally you see someone flashing their nose, but only once have I seen someone in a store without a mask.

It was at the Dunkin west of Red Rock casino. That's always a funny store to visit for two reasons. First, it has no drive-thru, so you have to go inside to order or pick up a mobile order.

Second, cyclists use the parking lot for that shopping complex as a staging area or starting point for riding through the nearby Red Rock Canyon. Come to think of it, I don't really know what they're doing there. I see plenty of vehicles with bike racks, and plenty of bicycles, and plenty of people wearing tight biking shorts and shirts, but I don't think I've ever actually seen someone riding a bicycle. I always feel funny carrying my Dunkin bag through the cycling crowd even though I rarely get a donut.

In any case, a trio of cyclists was in line in the store when I entered and one of them was not wearing a mask. It wasn't down on his chin. I think he didn't have one at all. He should have waited outside. He's the only one I've seen not wearing a mask when one should.

Well, not counting the people I see in the casino using a bottle of water or an ashtray as an exemption from having to wear a mask, even though they're not smoking at the time and they could easily leave the mask on except when they're taking a drink. As long as drinking and smoking are allowed on Nevada's casinos' floors, I'll just look for another place to play when there's a smoker or drinker nearby -- and I have left a casino without playing when I couldn't find a safe-ish place to play.

Indiana recently prohibited eating and drinking on the casino floors in its casinos (Eating, drinking and smoking are moving off gaming floors at Indiana casinos. The Indiana Gaming Commission requires casinos to designate "a segregated spot away from the gaming area and walking paths for socially distanced eating, drinking and smoking. According to the Gaming Commission, that will ensure every person in the gaming area, aside from those seated in adjacent restaurants while eating and drinking, will be wearing a face mask or another face covering to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19."

I think the policy makes a lot of sense. If you're on the casino floor, you should have a mask on and the compliance officers don't have to figure out whether you're allowed to be temporarily unmasked because you're eating or drinking. It's like the casino standard procedures I wrote about a few weeks ago. Employees not following the standard procedures stand out and their behavior can be corrected. There are no exceptions.

You may have gotten your visit in just in time. Nevada Governor Sisolak implemented Stay at Home 2.0 a week ago. There are no new restrictions at this time, but the governor encouraged us to not go to stores or restaurants unless essential and to limit gatherings. And, of course, do the three things scientists have been recommending for months: wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands often. If Nevada's numbers don't improve next week, the governor promised he would take stronger action.

Meanwhile the governor also encouraged tourists to keep coming to Nevada, provided they wear a mask and follow other Covid-19 protocols. He acknowledged the contradiction in welcoming tourists and asking residents to stay home. He said that he is trying to balance virus mitigation efforts with keeping Nevada's economy running.

I doubt we'll see Nevada's casinos close again, but I would like the governor, who recently tested positive for the virus, to take stronger measures to protect the industry -- and the players and the workers -- and follow Indiana's lead. Indoor dining is risky because you spend so much time unmasked amid other unmasked people. Everyone on the casino floor should wear a mask at all times.

How do you feel about the Covid-19 protocols mentioned above?

Do you like having temperatures checked before entering the casino? Or is it not really making the casino environment any safer because so many infected people have no symptoms, including fever?

Do you prefer limiting the number of chairs at a table or slot bank or having shields between the positions (both is an option)?

Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Over 1,000,000 new cases this week. How much worse will this get? When the pandemic started in the United States, the virus was in just a few areas and warming weather allowed us to spend time outdoors. Now the virus is everywhere and we're moving back indoors. This is our first pandemic winter.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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