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Nevada regulator to fine Sahara for Covid-19 breaches


The Nevada Gaming Control Board is to fine the Sahara Las Vegas casino for four breaches of emergency health and safety guidelines issued because of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

In early June 2020, the Board received a complaint that the Sahara, operated by the Muruelo Group, had been allowing more players on the slot floor than permitted in the state’s policies for reopening after closures that lasted from mid-March.

Following this, the Board witnessed three instances of customers at tables or machines where they were not playing and one meeting that exceeded the limit on meeting sizes.

 On 16 June, an agent of the board witnessed a customer standing at a craps table where three others were playing despite not participating in the game.

“By allowing the fourth patron to stand at the craps table while not participating in the game, the Sahara violated the board’s health and safety policies that prohibit the congregation of groups around gaming tables,” the Board said.

On the same day, the Board also witnessed a customer standing between two players at a blackjack table without participating, as well as five customers crowded around a slot machine where another customer was playing.

The Board noted that when asked about the extra customers at the two gaming tables, the Sahara’s assistant casino manager “acknowledged and corrected” the situation. It did not mention whether or not action was taken at the slot machine.

On 23 June, the NGCB said the Sahara held a meeting of a local trade organisation. While meetings were limited to 50 or less people under Governor Steve Sisolak’s emergency orders, this meeting included 135 participants. 

The Board said it was told by the Sahara’s vice president of sales that he had received a go-ahead from the casino’s chief financial officer and vice president of governmental affairs, who each said they had received verbal approval from a member of the Board.

The vice president of governmental affairs, however, later said he has misinterpreted information on a conference call about meetings in restaurants.

All of these instances, the Board said,  violated its health and safety regulations and therefore also Nevada revised statute 463.170.8, which says that gaming licensees must meet the COmmission’s standard for operation.

“Such violations constitute an unsuitable method of operation and provide the basis for disciplinary action,” the Board added.

The Board said it would issue a fine to the Sahara but did not reveal the amount of this penalty. Nevada regulations say that initial offenses in this area carry a maximum penalty of $100,000 and subsequent offenses a maximum penalty of $250,000.

In June, their first month back after reopening, Nevada casino revenue reached $566.8m, down 45.6% year-on-year. Sportsbooks, meanwhile, recorded their first monthly loss in almost seven years.