Sahara Las Vegas and Grand Sierra To Pay $75K in Fines

Sahara Las Vegas Logo
The Sahara on the Las Vegas Strip and the Grand Sierra in Reno will pay $75,000 as a joint settlement for violating the state’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

According to settlement documents, the Los Angeles-based Meruelo Group, which owns both Sahara and Grand Sierra, did not “admit nor deny” the allegations. However, the Nevada casino operator agreed on the joint settlement because they believe that the Nevada Gaming Board “could meet its burden of proof if these matters were to proceed to the evidentiary hearing before the Commission.”

In a statement, the Meruelo Group said:

“Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests and team members and we will continue to work cooperatively with government agencies to meet these high standards and ensure compliance across our resorts.”

Various COVID-19 Related Violations

The Board filed a case against the Sahara Las Vegas last August, alleging that the resort hosted a July 23 luncheon event which was attended by an estimated 135 people. The state’s coronavirus guidelines permit Nevada casinos to host gatherings with a maximum of 50 people. Another case filed alleged that the hotel-casino allowed its customers to break social distancing rules at blackjack and craps tables last June 16.

On the other hand, a three-count case was filed against Grand Sierra last August 7th. In the complaint, Nevada regulators claimed that on three different occasions, state gaming agents witnessed guests not wearing masks inside the casino-hotel premises. The agents also said that casino officials and employees didn’t do anything to correct the practice.

Gaming Regulators File Complaints

Since Nevada casinos reopened last June 4th, gaming regulators have filed a total of six disciplinary complaints against Nevada casinos for COVID-19 related violations. Four of the cases have already been settled and were due for consideration on Thursday.

Bowl Incline in Lake Tahoe will pay $5,000 for not closing its bar top games on July 10. Slot operator Century Gaming is set to pay $15,000 for the same infraction involving Cheers Bar. Hotel Ely agreed to pay $15,000 after several employees were seen not wearing face masks. Meanwhile, the owners of the C.O.D. Casino also settled for a $30,000 payment for face mask violations.

Nevada casinos were allowed to open again last June with the state enforcing strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. The restrictions include reduced occupancy, more space between gamblers, head count limit for meeting and convention spaces.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission To Reconsider Roulette and Craps

MGM SpringfieldRoulette and Craps games may be coming back soon in the Bay State.

This development emerged after the  Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced that it will consider a request by by casinos to allow the restart of roulette and craps games which have not been permitted since the casinos were allowed to reopen early last month.

Reconsidering The Request

State regulators have been working with Encore and MGM on how the games can be played while maintaining social distancing between players and casino staff. The Commission is expected to  tackle the matter during a meeting scheduled for Thursday, August 13, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. via teleconference. 

In a statement last Tuesday, MGM said:

“We appreciate the Gaming Commission’s consideration of our request as we progress through a phased reopening with the health and safety of our employees and guests at the forefront of any decisions.”

MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor have asked the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to allow roulette and craps games at their establishments. The two are the only casinos in the state that offer table games. Despite the absence of roulette, craps, and poker, the casinos in Massachusetts have been able to handle the reopening well.

Massachusetts casinos were ordered closed by the state since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have since been allowed to re-open but subject to the strict guidelines set by the Gaming Commission. The guidelines have not permitted casinos to offer roulette, craps, and poker games.

Re-Opening Guidelines

The re-opening guidelines have resulted in the gambling establishments reopening with an estimated one-third of their pre-COVID 19 capacities. The Commission’s guidelines include plexiglass dividers, spacing requirements, wearing of masks when not outdoors, eating, or drinking, and other health safety precautions.

The guidelines also called on the casinos to disable some of their slot machines and remove chairs in order to keep their guests separated. The distance required was four feet apart if there is a plexiglass and six feet apart if none. The table games that were allowed were restricted to three players per table.

Food service has also been limited to designated areas and they are allowed to operate according to the state rules for restaurants. Casinos were also told to consider non-contact temperature checks and prohibiting entry to any guest who registered 100.4 or higher on two consecutive checks.

MGM Springfield reopened over the weekend of July 10-13 after four months of closure. Encore and Plainridge Park reopened several days earlier. Plainridge is a slots parlor that does not offer table games. In Springfield, that meant 919 gaming positions from 810 slot machines and 90 seats at table games. MGM later expanded its offerings to 855 slot machines while still maintaining social distancing.