The Nevada Gaming Control Board undertook over 11,795 inspections or observations at gaming venues statewide since June 4 to ensure compliance with state coronavirus regulations, according to data released on Thursday. But those official visits led to only seven formal complaints.
The compliance checks began when Nevada casinos could reopen after months of closures. In June and July gaming board officials conducted over 10,000 inspections or observations at both casinos and licensed gaming sites in smaller enterprises.
That works out to about 172 visits a day for the 58-day period. In August, the board’s staff undertook another 1,795 inspections or observations.
Gaming board staff explained to Casino.org the difference between “observations” and “inspections” relates to the original purpose an agent went to a gaming property. The visit is called an inspection if that was the initial purpose agents went there. But if an agent was sent to a gaming property to investigate an alleged gaming crime, and while there, agents also made COVID-19 compliance checks, that is an observation.
The gaming board also reported that since June 4, it initiated 189 “regulatory cases” based on what agents saw during visits. These are instances of alleged material noncompliance.
For each of the seven cases coming from the 189 total, the Nevada Gaming Commission, a companion panel to the gaming board, will preside over a hearing. Board members act like a judge does in a courtroom, and will determine the fine if any.
Numbers Are Not Surprising, Gaming Law Expert Says
When asked for comment about the number of inspections, cases, and complaints, Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow in Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law and a former chair of the gaming law practice at the Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie law firm, said they were not surprising.
The volume of early inspections indicates the Gaming Control Board gave this the highest regulatory priority and intended to set lofty expectations for casino compliance,” Cabot told Casino.org. “The number of inspections is not surprising given this emphasis.”
He points out the board’s enforcement division has about 90 full-time police-certified field agents who worked on the inspections or observations. Initially, other board agents assisted the enforcement agents, the gaming commission’s statement said.
Cabot further explained that “in June … [health and safety] protocols were new and some implementation errors [were] … expected. Likewise, some casinos may have had challenges in conforming guest behaviors consistent with social distancing.”
He contends it is “consistent that [about] 10 percent of inspections resulted in regulatory cases. These numbers should decrease in the future.”
A regulatory case is often resolved by “communications” with a casino, which can then “alter its operations to assure future compliance,” Cabot further explained. It also can “serve as a warning that future … noncompliance may result in disciplinary action.”
In fact, the seven disciplinary actions are “more surprising,” Cabot noted. He explains that “disciplinary actions are more common when the violations result from intentional violations, an indifference to regulatory compliance or repeated violations.”
Fines are the “normal resolution” to these violations, he confirmed. But the gaming commission is given “broad discretion. The fines could be as low as $10,000 or in the millions,” Cabot added.
Gaming Board Chairwoman Urges Casinos to Follow Safeguards
With Labor Day weekend starting, Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said in a statement released this week that “It is incumbent on every gaming operator to remind employees and customers to properly wear face coverings and to comply with occupancy limits and social distancing protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
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