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HOME > STRATEGY > Strategies & Tips > Ask the Slot Expert: Week 2 of Phase 2 in Las Vegas

Ask the Slot Expert: Week 2 of Phase 2 in Las Vegas

17 June 2020

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

We're nearing the end of the second week of limited casino reopenings in Las Vegas. There is no date yet to further ease restrictions. As expected, the number of positive cases has increased since reopening and Nevada reported the largest single-day increase in cases on 6/15. "We had the expectation that as a result of reopening and an increase in testing, our positive cases were likely to increase," Governor Sisolak said. The number of tests performed on 6/15 is among the lowest for the past week. Increased testing is not the cause of this spike.

I did a double-header this past week. On Friday morning I hit Red Rock to pick up free play and a gift, followed by Suncoast to pick up free play. I made a return visit to Red Rock on Saturday morning to play a kiosk game.

What a difference a day makes. Friday: not crowded, well over half the people wore masks. There were a few people standing too closely together in the line for the cafe, but an egregious example of non-socially-distant queueing was the line for the gift during the VIP hour. That was really surprising given that most of the people in the line were members of a vulnerable population. There was only one person in front of me when I went to pick up my gift after playing my free play.

Saturday: the first public level in the parking garage was nearly full (like it usually is), but VIP level was still nearly empty. The casino was much more crowded than on Friday. Mask usage was about 30%. People were bunched together waiting in line for the cafe -- no attempt to maintain any distance between parties. Almost no one had a mask, but I did see one 10-year-old boy wearing a mask though his parents did not. We may never know if the casinos are super-spreaders because Californians or Utahans or Arizonans who get infected in Nevada are counted in their state of residence's statistics, not Nevada's. Coordinated contact tracing between the states would give a clearer picture.

I wrote last week that I thought the casinos were doing almost everything they could to keep their employees and guests safer. I chose those words very carefully.

Safer Casinos can't eliminate every risk, but they can decrease the risk of many activities.

Almost everything The casinos could have done more without setting any earth-shaking precedents. Casinos could have required all visitors to wear masks. Some countries, counties and businesses require people to wear masks in public, so the requirement is not unprecedented. My local bagel shop now requires anyone who enters the store to wear a mask.

Casinos, in addition, could have either temporarily banned smoking or limited the areas in which smoking is permitted. If I can smell your smoke, I'm breathing in air that used to be around you. If you're smoking, you're not wearing a mask -- at least I've never seen a smoker exhale through a mask. Other casinos have limited their smoking areas or banned smoking for their reopenings. There was a lot of competition for the gaming licenses in Massachusetts, where all casinos are smoke-free, so casino operators can't claim that smoking is an integral part of casino gaming.

Reader comment: Colorado also prohibits smoking. It's not that big a market but it hasn't hurt their business.

Thanks, I didn't know that. According to smokefreecasinos.org, Colorado is one of 20 states that have smoke-free casinos.

In fairness to the Las Vegas' casinos, they're following the guidelines set by the gaming commission and the gaming commission does not have the legal authority to ban smoking in Nevada's casinos. But the casinos could have gone above and beyond the guidelines.

The future of the buffet is in doubt, but there is one new development. Wynn is the first casino to reopen its buffet. Rather than having employees serve food from the steam tables as it did before shutting down the buffet (before shutting down the casino), diners will order from a server, who will bring the dishes to their tables. That's one way to eliminate people bunching up around the serving stations. Diners can still order and reorder as much as they want.

Wynn's buffet is supposed to be one of the best in town, so this model may be successful for it. At so-so buffets, you may get the same waited-on experience as at a restaurant, but you may end up paying more than at the restaurant and getting mass-produced food. Two advantages, however, might be greater selection and all you can eat.

This reminds me of a Chinese restaurant my co-workers and I used to go to frequently when I worked in New York City. I think it was called China Cafe. After one mid-winter visit, we noticed a strange smell in the office. A co-worker realized that our heavy winter coats had absorbed the smell of China Cafe and brought it back to our office. It was closed for renovations when we tried to eat there once. We learned that renovations really means health code violations. One of my co-workers summed up the China Cafe dining experience this way: The food's not very good, but they give you a lot of it.

I noticed that a dining credit coupon I got from Suncoast does not say Dine-In Only on it. I thought I could use the credit to get a feast to go from Suncoast's Chinese restaurant, but it is not one of the few dining outlets that have reopened. I can always use it at the Bagel Corner snack bar, where the dine-in only restriction doesn't apply.

Question: A thought to ponder from a craps player: If they are only going to allow four players at the table at a time, it would seem to me that they should have all tables open during the day and prime times at night. Otherwise I’m sure it will be a frustrating time to not be able to get on a table during the times I like to be there.

I travel from Florida to Vegas about four times a year. The rest of the time we frequent the Beau in Biloxi. With these new rules in place, I can foresee us cutting down on some of those trips.

One other thought. I’m a non smoker and think about all those smoked butts in ashtrays around the casino floor coming from someone's mouth. One can only imagine what that could do.

Answer: The limits on the number of players at a table game in Nevada are three for blackjack, four for roulette and poker, and six for craps. I admit that I haven't paid close attention to the situation at the tables, but my impression is that I haven't seen any tables maxed out with players and I still occasionally see empty tables. I've been going to the casinos around 9:30am to 11:30am, a time when they are usually not very crowded, so take that into account.

This is a rough time for table games. Even with limiting the number of players, the players are still closer to other players and closer to the dealer than recommended. Card games are dealt face-up so players don't have to touch the cards, but there's no way to keep players from touching the dice. Dice are sanitized between shooters, but what do you do about the chips?

You might have some difficulty getting a seat at a table in the early days of reopening, but once things settle down and the table games team gets a sense of what the new level of demand is, they'll try to ensure that they have enough gaming positions available for the number of people who want to play.

You also might find that table minimums have increased to offset the limit on the number of players. Unlike a grocery store, a casino can't necessarily increase the cost of its products by changing the rules of the games, but it can force you to buy more.

Moving on to your other thought, unless you plan to rub them on your face or stick them up your nose, I wouldn't worry much about the cigarette butts in ashtrays. I'm more concerned about what the smoker has exhaled. Nevertheless don't touch the ashtrays. If you have to touch one, immediately sanitize your hands afterwards.

Red Rock has numerous sanitizing wipes dispensers throughout the casino. I get a few of them when I enter the casino and carry them in my hand throughout my visit. I don't worry about what I've touched because I'm constantly wiping my hands. The wipes stay moist and usable for a long time. I used to put them in one of my back pockets to take them for use at Suncoast, the second stop in my new, usual casino itinerary, until I realized that they were leaving a wet spot on my pants. I probably should have realized that would happen before putting the moist wipes in my pocket. In any case, I put the wipes in a plastic bag to keep them moist and my pants dry between using them at Red Rock and Suncoast.

Please keep sharing your experiences with casinos in the coronavirus era. How has social distancing worked at the slots and table games? How are the slot floorpeople and dealers coping? Are players wearing masks? Do you avoid areas where people aren't wearing masks? Is your casino lax on preventive measures or is it an example of doing them right? Have you eaten at a casino restaurant? What changes in restaurant procedures have you seen?

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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