Even in the best of times, spending an extended period of time in any casino exposes one to bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other germs spread by close contact. From the felt underneath your fingertips to the chips in the palm of your hand, surfaces inside a crowded casino tend to accumulate all sorts of muck and grime.
Thankfully, casino operators are taking additional steps toward sanitization, but you can still do your part to protect yourself. Whether you’re worried about the arrival of flu season, or you simply want to stay clean and safe while playing, here are six simple methods to make it happen.
Use Hand Sanitizer to Clean Your Hands After Touching Chips
Back in 2007, when every gambler and their mother could be found playing real money poker, Bluff magazine commissioned a unique study on germs in the casino.
Specifically, the Bluff team wanted to know what sort of harmful microorganisms could be found on the average poker chip. The magazine connected with microbiologist Brian Hedlund from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV), who then secured several chips from various poker rooms around Sin City.
After swabbing the samples and letting the life forms found incubate for a few days, Hedlund reported startling results. According to his analysis, the average chip you use to place bets contains 3,000 unique microorganisms, while one particularly disgusting chip maxed out at over 5,000.
These germs ranged from the relatively harmless to dangerous microorganisms like staphylococcus and bacillus cereus, which cause staph infections and food poisoning, respectively. Hedlund’s team even identified the pathogen responsible for antibiotic resistant staph infections known as MRSA.
Before you give up on casino gambling forever, Hedlund did advise hesitant players to remember that these germs are already everywhere. As he put it in the Bluff report, your hands naturally hold hundreds of millions of microorganisms which are naturally occurring and largely harmless.
Nonetheless, adding certain germs to your hands’ existing petri dish isn’t exactly a great idea nowadays…
These percentages, combined with regular use and a 30-second scrub, ensure any germs you absorb from casino chips are dead on arrival.
The key with chip transmission prevention is to stay vigilant and avoid complacency. Sanitize your hands after initially buying chips, then do it again every 15 minutes or so as you enjoy the game. To wrap things up, use hot water and antibacterial soap for a final handwash once you’re back home or in the hotel room.
Clip Your Fingernails and Keep Them Short Throughout the Trip
Spend enough time playing casino table games and you’ll inevitably notice that the ends of your fingernails have changed color from clear to black.
This happens when you pick up chips, cards, or dice from a felted table over and over again. As you do, your fingernails scrape along the surface of the felt and drag all sorts of gunk along with them. For the most part, this debris contains tiny pieces of lint that the felt leaves behind after wear and tear.
I hate having to clean my fingernails after a long session on the tables, so I take the preventative step by clipping them nice and short before I play my first hand. The shorter, the better in my book!
Lately, I’ve been in the habit of clipping my nails before and after a table game session. That way, whatever dirt does manage to accumulate promptly ends up in the waste bin.
Use Sanitizing Wipes for Slot and Video Poker Machines
If chips are the dirtiest surface you can find at a casino, the screens and buttons found on gaming machines are the clear runner-up.
On any given day, hundreds of people will sit down at a machine to try their luck. And every last one of these people uses their fingertips to tap the screen or press buttons while they play.
The casinos are supposed to be sanitizing machine surfaces with regularity these days, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. When you have a few packs of alcohol-based sanitizing wipes in your bag, you can easily take a few moments to scrub your machine down.
Make sure to hit the screen, the buttons, the pull lever, and the slot where bills or players club cards are deposited. Let the sanitizer do its work and dry up for a minute or so, then feel free to sit back and enjoy your favorite machine free from worry.
Always Use a Straw for Drinks
Enjoying a nice beverage while you gamble it up is a time-honored tradition on the casino floor.
After all, you don’t know how well that glass was washed or if somebody else has had their mouth on it recently. Knowing this, a straw offers a surefire way of avoiding any secondhand contact that can spread germs.
Fortunately, cocktail servers in any land based casino worth its salt will have their trays stocked up with straws. Even better, I recommend bringing your own personal metal straw along to cut out the middleman.
Steer Clear of Smoke
I’ve always adopted this tactic when I walk around the casino because I hate the smell of cigarette and cigar smoke.
But in light of what we’ve learned about the flu and other airborne transmission, avoiding any lingering smoke is simply common sense. Secondhand smoke is dangerous in its own right, so when exhaled germs are factored in, areas with heavy smoke can become one of the dirtiest places in any casino.
Wear a Cloth Mask Whenever You’re Close to Other People
Back in the day, wearing a mask within the casino was considered a definite no-no. Gaming regulations prevented gamblers from covering their faces, as doing so essentially erased the impact of that ever present “eye in the sky.”
Those days are over though, and the next time you enter a casino, you’ll likely be asked to wear a simple cloth mask just to cover your nose and mouth. Listen, I get it… Masks can be uncomfortable and unwieldy while you’re playing, especially during the stifling summer months in Las Vegas.
Even so, they’re one of the easiest ways to avoid catching the flu and other infectious diseases. If staying clean and safe is a priority for you, adding a mask to your gambling gear is a no-brainer.
Staying healthy when gambling has never been more important, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your favorite casino altogether. Between the additional steps taken by operators to protect guests, and the helpful tips found above, anybody can navigate the casino floor without worrying about catching the flu or some other illness.
Washing your hands after handling chips and scrubbing down slot machines may seem like a burden at first, but you’ll adjust to the habit in no time flat. And when everybody adds these preventative measures to their casino routine, the whole place becomes cleaner and safer as a result.