Pennsylvania’s Gambling Control Board has released a casino reopening protocol six months since the industry went on a hiatus. The guideline centers on running gambling businesses safely now that COVID-19 has yet to be eliminated.
This is the second time the Gambling Control Board has issued a guideline on operating casinos safely this year. In May, the regulatory body shared a ten-page document that would help gambling establishments run their operations while keeping employees and patrons safe.
Below is an outline of the latest measures PGCB has proposed.
Guidelines for Patrons/Customers
In Pennsylvania, casinos are required to follow all health guidelines put in place by the PA Department of Health and the CDC. This involves a high standard of sanitation, observing social distancing, and masking up whenever possible.
Additionally, the PGCB recommends these measures:
- Customers should be discouraged against wearing hats. If they insist on keeping their hats, they must face a designated camera for identification.
- Casinos must place signage posts at different places to remind patrons of CDC COVID-19 guidelines. Additionally, there must be staff who know how to identify the signs and symptoms of the disease.
- Casinos will need to have sanitizers in different areas and markings to enforce social distancing where queueing is important.
- Patrons who refuse to follow safety guidelines must be escorted out.
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For genuine reasons, employees will have the most measures to follow inside PA casinos. First, they must undergo extensive training to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within gambling establishments.
Then there needs to be an assigned safety officer whose primary goal is to ensure their casino is helping mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This official will also be responsible for reporting cases of employees acquiring the disease to the PGCB.
Like patrons, employees will be required to follow all the safety guidelines suggested by the CDC. They’re doing this now that some PA casinos opened as early as June. Read here for an outline of when every casino will open in Pennsylvania.
Back to employee guidelines, the PGCB also has measures that minimize interactions unless necessary. For example, breaks should be staggered, such there’s no overcrowding as employees more out or enter their areas of work.
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through surfaces inside casinos, the PGCB recommends these measures:
- Thorough cleaning throughout casino facilities.
- All public areas to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- Deep cleaning to be applied to restrooms and other high-traffic areas
In other words, the PGCB wants casinos to maintain a high level of cleanliness. It also recommends them to fumigate and disinfect high traffic areas as often as possible. While effecting these measures, though, casinos need to protect their employees.
General Guidelines for Casinos
Many of the guidelines PGCB has for casinos in Pennsylvania are measures suggested by the CDC. They include placing markings that help employees and patrons observe social distancing while lining up.
On the flip side, wipes and hand sanitizers must be placed throughout casinos. In the same spirit, there should be visible signs reminding people of their duties to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Some rules, though, are specific on who should enforce them. For example, employees are required to clean more areas withing casinos than ever before: disinfecting trash cans, cleaning all hard surfaces, and canteens, to name a few.
Although PGCB doesn’t state it outrightly, it recognizes that positive cases might be unavoidable. For this reason, it has a string of disaster preparedness measures casinos must enforce. They include:
- A list of employees who work in security, ITS, finance, and gaming departments
- An inspection of surveillance cameras
- A plan on how to comply with CDC COVID-19 guidelines
- A policy on how to use PPE materials when employees require them
The PGCB will work with every casino to ensure they have essential COVID-19 mitigation measures before allowing them to reopen. Speaking of which, there are more mandates gaming establishments must fulfill before receiving a green light from the PGCB.
For example, each casino must have self-exclusion areas and plans to inspect necessary equipment such as generators, panic buttons, and UPS machines. Another requirement is to provide an audit of all offered games, including proof they’ve not been tampered with since lockdowns commenced.
Guidelines for Slots
Slot machines are the most played casino games. To reduce congestion where the games are located, the PGCB suggests plexiglass between every machine. Alternatively, casinos can remove chairs in front of games seldom played. An even better option is to disable a specific number of games.
Ideally, the best way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 around games would be to avoid touching slots. This is not an option, though. As such, the next best requirement is to disinfect game surfaces when not in use.
Guidelines for Table Games
Tables games might not be as popular as slot machines, but they involve two or more people playing together. Thus, people who play craps, blackjack, poker, and roulette are at a higher risk of spreading the disease.
What’s the solution? According to the PGCB, the first measure is to ensure there’s social distancing among players and croupiers. Then everyone must wear a mask and avoid touching surfaces unless necessary.
Items that must be touched regularly—say chips, chairs, and tables—must be sanitized as often as possible. Of course, there must be sanitization areas for both employees and patrons.
Games that involve touching cards will be prohibited from PA casinos until further notice. That means there will be no poker, blackjack, or baccarat. Sports betting will be allowed, though. Like slots, both patrons and employees must observe measures that help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.