Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has signed into law a new bill that will protect gambling businesses from lawsuits related to novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
Senate Bill 4 covers all businesses active in the Nevada entertainment market, including casinos, provided that they are operating in line with specific Covid-19 measures and requirements in the state.
It grants these companies legal immunity from claims put forward by workers or guests that contract the virus.
“This bill isn’t about economic expansion – it’s about our state’s economic survival,” Sisolak explained. “It’s about acknowledging that Nevada relies heavily on a single industry – the hospitality industry – and in order to make it through this historic storm, we must ensure it survives.
“But it’s not just about protecting the businesses – it’s also about protecting the workers that keep this industry and our economy running.”
The bill also sets out measures for protecting staff and customers, by legally requiring casinos and hotels to develop a strategy setting out their measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Operators should also encourage staff and guests to maintain social distancing at all times, leaving a minimum of 6ft between each other, as well as provide hand sanitising stations throughout their venues and install plexiglass screens at the appropriate areas.
However, the protection offered by the bill will disappear should operators or businesses fail to comply in full with state measures related to Covid-19. This includes strict requirements to ensure high-contact surfaces such as doors, gaming screens, ATMs, tables, bars and menus are kept clean at all times.
Governor Sisolak warned that if any operator is found to be in breach of state regulations for Covid-19, then they would have no shield from lawsuits related to people either contracting or dying from the virus.
“Those inevitable bad actors that have ignored – and continue to ignore – our state’s directives and published health and safety protocols will not be protected from liability for those failures – those bad actors will continue to face legal consequences.
“This legislation does not create an impenetrable shield for those businesses who fail to protect their employees, customers, visitors, and, most importantly, hard working Nevadans.”
American Gaming Association (AGA) president and chief executive Bill Miller praised the bill, saying it will enable its members to focus on “sustained economic and community recovery”.
“While we have worked diligently to safely reopen our doors and welcome our team members back to work, we remain concerned that already-suffering gaming businesses will be forced to defend against an onslaught of frivolous lawsuits,” Miller said.
“Capacity restrictions and significant safety expenditures are already taking their toll. This bill helps to mitigate the costs of burdensome litigation that will ultimately affect state and local taxes and jobs.”
However, the legislation was attacked by the Nevada Hospital Association (NHA), which pointed out that the protections did not extend to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
“Hospitals and health care workers have been on the front lines of Covid-19 since March and not extending premises liability protections to them creates situations that need to be addressed to ensure the safety of patients, employees and hospitals themselves,” NHA president Bill Welch said.
“We support protection for all of Nevada’s businesses so that we can revitalize our economy. We will be reaching out to Governor Sisolak’s office to request an amendment to Declaration 11 that specifically outlines protections to health care facilities during the Covid-19 emergency.”