CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: What will Vegas's casinos be like in August?

8 July 2020

Question: Hi, John, from casino-free New York. None are open and I feel the pain. Budget going farther though. Hopefully I will have my day of fun again soon.

Answer: My non-advantage player friends agree with you -- their budgets are going farther. They miss going to the casino, but the extra cash is coming in handy.

The advantage players aren't anxious to get back to their past activities. They miss the opportunity to make a little cash, but little is the key word. The opportunities aren't as good as they were in the past, so they're not missing out on much.

At some point in the future, COVID-19 will be just another zoonotic disease like West Nile virus, rabies and Lyme disease. We'll either develop herd immunity, have effective treatments or a vaccine. I don't know when that future will be, but it's probably not going to be before the end of this year.


Question: I can speak to how things are different in Black Hawk, Colorado, since I've now been to three of the major casinos in that market (Ameristar, the Isle, and Monarch). The most noteworthy difference on entry is that now there is a temperature screening station at every open entrance of all the properties, and only one or two entrances are open into each building. We went back right on the day of re-opening, arriving around 4PM at Ameristar, and had to stand in line for about 30 minutes before we were allowed on the casino floor. The state has mandated strict capacity limits and the folks at Ameristar (and the other properties I've visited since) are taking the body count requirements seriously. I was told by one of the employees there that the health department was performing random checks of properties and in order to qualify for early consideration of the next phase of opening (which would allow table games to reopen), they were doing everything possible to comply with the rules. That includes mandatory wearing of face masks. I saw several individuals who clearly had issues with the policy escorted off-property by casino security. Funny how one little additional requirement to mitigate the spread of aerosols from person to person seems to inflame passions in some people. We've been back two additional times since reopening day, and the entry rules at each property are still being enforced.

Only slots and video poker are permitted to operate in this initial phase in Colorado, and to enforce 6-foot distance requirements, alternate machines on most banks (and at every video poker bar) are turned off. In some cases their chairs have been removed, but in others the chairs have been left in place. Again, security is actively walking the floor at all properties, enforcing the distancing rules. One semi-inebriated customer walked up to the largest bar at Ameristar, stood right next to me, pulled his mask down and shouted an order at the bartender. This broke several new rules - bartenders cannot serve any walk-ups, all players must be seated at an active machine before they can place an order, and of course masks must remain in place while playing, moved off face only to allow for eating and drinking. I was amazed at what happened next. The poor chap was surrounded by casino security (3 large gentlemen) within 30 seconds of his infraction, and when he refused to reposition his mask he was "assertively escorted" to the nearest exit. I've only seen security respond that quickly once before - when an idiot tried to hold up one of the casino bars with a toy pistol several years ago!

Except for the lack of table games and the mask and social distancing rules, the casino floors here seem to be operating "near normal," although it is very weird to be at one of the properties late in the evening on a Saturday night (when bar areas are normally SRO), and to have lots of space between you and other patrons. Since tables are not yet reopened, there's nothing to report about minimums, etc., there yet. In other respects, except for the dearth of player's club offers from some properties (At one of the above mentioned casinos all my comp'ed room offers have evaporated!) the player's clubs still accumulate points on the same old schedule - and a couple of the properties have adjusted point requirements for tier levels DOWN to account for the fact that nobody was earning tier points for 3 months. It is a bit disappointing that the premium tier clubs/lounges are not yet allowed to open here - I miss the opportunity to unwind a bit in a quieter environment than the floor, with free food and drinks.

All in all, we're glad that the casinos have reopened and we look forward to the time when the tables are allowed to operate again. I realize that with the news about Covid-19 cases on the upswing again that nothing about this current situation can be taken for granted; I only hope that Colorado case counts don't jump dramatically again - or all this work to allow for safe reopening may ultimately be for naught.

Answer: I'm so glad to hear of a jurisdiction that is taking the safety measures for reopening seriously and enforcing compliance with them.

Casino marketing departments have to walk a fine line now. On the one hand, they want to encourage people to come back to the casino. On the other, they know that too many people will make it more difficult to distance, may cause the casino to hit occupancy limits, may stress the ability of slot personnel to sanitize machines, may make it more difficult for security to enforce distancing and mask regulations -- and may make the casino environment itself riskier despite masks, distancing and frequent hand-washing.

I had a few free night offers for June, but nothing for July. I wonder if the additional sanitization procedures that hotels are doing between guests caused some casinos to restrict the free room offers to top-tier players only.

I wouldn't expect the lounges to open soon. A number of people in a relatively small space, eating and drinking, not wearing a mask for extended periods of time -- all red flags. I see that some restaurants in Colorado are reopening for indoor dining (https://www.westword.com/restaurants/denver-restaurants-reopening-for-in-house-dining-11716412) now, so I might be wrong.


Question: I like to play the table games like Mississippi Stud, Three-Card Poker, etc. Since the casinos in Las Vegas have reopened, are they playing these games? If so, how? Are there limited people at tables, touching cards and chips? Just curious what I have to look forward to when I go out in August.

I enjoy playing slots also, but like to break up the day playing both slots and table games.

Answer: I can't tell you what things will be like next week, let alone in August. It seems like every day the news reports that Nevada set a record for new COVID-19 cases. Granted, there is more testing, so identifying more cases is not necessarily a bad thing. But the rates of hospitalization and deaths are over their moving averages and the infection rate registered its 20th straight daily increase (https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/politics-and-government/clark-county/clark-county-records-836-new-covid-19-cases-11-additional-deaths-2069193/).

Nevada is moving in the wrong direction. There were rumors about Las Vegas shutting down again on Twitter over the holiday weekend. There is nothing official yet, but some people think another shutdown is in the cards (https://www.usbets.com/las-vegas-casinos-verge-closing-again/). Gaming columnist Jeff Hwang was quoted in the article as saying that "by June 24 we had already hit all the shutdown metrics...the only reason Nevada is still open right now was for the July 4th cash grab." The Governor has said that all options are on the table.

Assuming the casinos are still open in August, you can expect to see a hodgepodge of measures at different casinos and even within one casino. Here are some of the things you may see:

  • You will probably have your temperature taken before you enter the casino, but a few casinos don't do casino-entry temperature checks.
  • You will have your temperature checked before you stay in the hotel.
  • You may have to lower your face covering for the temperature check.
  • The guard at the entry will offer you a mask if you don't have one.
  • The guard will encourage you to put on your mask before leaving the temperature check area. I don't know what would happen if you refused.
  • Every casino employee will be wearing a mask.
  • You will probably not be requested to put on a mask if you are not wearing one while walking around or playing a machine.
  • The gaming floor will have multiple hand sanitizer dispensers, sanitizing wipe dispensers or hand-washing stations.
  • Roving personnel on the slot floor will clean a machine at your request.
  • Roving personnel on the slot floor will give you a mask.
  • Half the machines on the slot floor will not have slot chairs.
  • Some of the machines will be disabled.
  • If you're sitting too close to another player, you will be asked if you are together. If not, one of you will be asked to move.
  • You must wear a mask at a table game.
  • Casinos can deal any table game, but they might not be offering anything other than blackjack, craps and roulette now.
  • The dealer may be the only one allowed to touch the cards at your table.
  • The dealer may also be the only one to touch the chips, so the dealer will make your bets for you.
  • The number of people at a table will be limited. Tables with plexiglass screens between the dealer and the players and between the players can have more players at the table.
  • Your position will be cleaned after you leave.
  • Cards, chips and dice will be regularly cleaned and disinfected. I've seen towel-covered tables with chips spread out on the towels and employees spraying the chips with disinfectant.

Let's see how we did containing the virus this past week. Data is from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
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

Please keep sending in your comments and experiences with casinos in this COVID-19 world.

Let me close by repeating and expanding a statement from the middle letter. If all of the states don't get the spread of the virus under control, "all this work to allow for safe reopening may ultimately be for naught."

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. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
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. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots