Nevada Casinos Hit With $435k in Fines for Multiple Violations

  • One $300,000 fine comes from Las Vegas Fremont security staff detaining a patron
  • Remaining $135,000 fines are a mix of COVID-19 violations from masks to bar top slots
  • Sin City’s Sahara and Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort earned their owner a $75,000 penalty
  • Fines delivered a message to casinos that state regulations should be taken seriously
Face mask sign at the Venetian in Las Vegas
Nevada’s casinos have been fined $435,000, and while the lion’s share was for a single policy breach, the penalties made clear the state’s zero tolerance approach to COVID-19 violations. [Image:]

Policies, COVID-19 regulations breached

The Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) has doled out a total of $435,000 in fines to casinos for COVID-19 regulatory complaints filed mostly in July and August, and for a breach of policy.

The no-nonsense approach backs up Governor Steve Sisolak’s late July warning of “no more excuses” for businesses and casino operators flaunting the state’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal tweeted news of the $435,000 in fines on Thursday.

Of the total fines, by far the biggest was slapped on Boyd Gaming Corp. The $300,000 fine relates to policy, however, not the pandemic. It involves a November 2019 incident in which a woman was falsely accused of theft and wrongfully detained by security officers employed at Boyd’s Fremont Hotel and Casino in downtown Las Vegas.

NCG chairman John Moran Jr., considered a higher fine

NCG chairman John Moran Jr., considered a greater fine but opted against it, as it was the first time Boyd had faced a Commission disciplinary hearing, along with other extenuating factors. Boyd’s Executive VP Steve Thompson has since apologized for the incident.

The remaining $135,000 worth of fines contain a mixed bag of COVID-19 violations, from properties with non-compliant bar top slots, to a luncheon gathering almost tripling the maximum 50-person capacity.

Fine breakdown

The Meruelo Group – which operates the Sahara on the Strip and the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno – was fined a total of $75,000. The Sahara’s charges stem from non-players not observing social distancing and 135 people attending a lunch despite a 50-person cap on gatherings.

Grand Sierra’s offenses were of a social distancing and mask-wearing nature. Senior VP Paul Hobson and GP Shauna Keep signed the agreement Wednesday, the Review-Journal reported.

An anonymous tip about mask violations at Cod Casino, which was followed up by an NGC agent, resulted in a $30,000 penalty. Six bar top slots contravened regulations at Cheers in Winnemucca and drew a $15,000 fine.

Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall in Ely fell foul of employee and customer mask rules, earning a $10,000 fine. Incline Bowl’s improper bar top slot protocol received the mildest fine, $5,000.

Message delivered

While admitting the fines were not too onerous, Brandon Bussmann, director of government affairs for Vegas-based Global Market Advisors LLC, said they “sent a message that regulations have to be taken seriously.”

this is an enforcement era as opposed to an education era”

“As the governor said, this is an enforcement era as opposed to an education era and down the way, you might see more severe fines than what were levied today”, Bussmann added.

Sisolak’s era of enforcement was in the cards July 2, after the Nevada Gaming Control Board launched an investigation into 111 cases of casinos reported to be flaunting health and safety protocols.  

The appointment of Caleb Cage as the state of Nevada COVID-19 response director seems to be one of Sisolak’s key moves. Cage, former head of the state division of emergency management and homeland security, was tasked in late July with leading a health response team that would “work on enhanced enforcement […] to reduce the spread.”

Fast forward to this week’s raft of fines – confirmation that Nevada’s era of enforcement is well underway. With agents in the field, casinos that ignore protocols, or are lax in enforcing them, risk paying the price.

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