Nevada Gaming: Poker Should Be Played Four-Handed When Casinos Reopen

The Nevada Gaming Control Board released a memo on Friday outlining how casinos should operate upon reopening to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including playing poker four-handed.

Bellagio poker room

Scenes like these from the Bellagio poker room may not take place again for a long time. The Nevada Gaming Control Board says poker games should be played no more than four-handed when casinos reopen. (Image: bikinihill.blogspot.com)

Directive Requires Spacing at All Gaming Tables

That plan is part of an overall goal of ensuring proper distance between players by limiting the number of seats or betting positions at each type of gaming table. The NGCB is also mandating that casinos allow no more than three players per blackjack table, six players per craps table, and four players per roulette table.

The guidelines direct casino supervisors and managers to ensure that patrons don’t congregate in groups around any gaming tables, including poker tables. Dealers should have hand sanitizer available to offer to players, and casinos should plan to regularly clean and disinfect table games, rails, chairs and gaming equipment, including cards and chips.

Casinos should allow no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy as determined by local building and fire codes inside of its facility at one time.

The board said it created the policy to “diminish personal contact and increase the level of disinfection in high-use areas.” It expects full compliance by casinos.

“This Policy constitutes the minimum requirements that should be followed, and does not preclude a gaming licensee from implementing its own additional requirements,” the memo states.

Gov. Steve Sisolak issued an emergency directive closing casinos on March 18 and it’s unclear when they will reopen. Gaming operations will not resume in the beginning stages of his “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery” plan that will guide how the Silver State will resume full economic operations.

Casinos Must Thoroughly Clean and Disinfect

The NGCB policy requires all surfaces to be cleaned and disinfected before casinos reopen and for all employees to be trained in how to clean and disinfect, and how to prevent the spread of infectious disease, including handwashing and social distancing.

While the policy mentions personal protective equipment, such as masks, it does not require its use, noting that PPE may be “required or recommended by federal, state, or local authorities.”

“When required or recommended, licensees should ensure that PPE is available to employees and provide training on how to properly use and dispose of all PPE,” the memo states.

The NGCB directive does not discuss the spacing between poker tables, which could be a social-distancing issue for some of the more jam-packed rooms with less space between the tables like the Bellagio.

Will Four-Handed Yield Lower Rake?

It’s common for players to get reduced rake when games are played short-handed in casinos, so it remains to be seen how casinos will handle the drop when casinos reopen and poker games resume. The effect these rules have on poker tournaments will also be a concern going forward. It’s unclear from the memo how long these guidelines will last after they are put into practice.

Before the Venetian closed its poker room — one of the last to do so in Las Vegas — it attempted to play games four-handed.

Johnny Kampis
Written by
Johnny Kampis
Johnny Kampis -- the author of "The Essential Guide to Vegas during the World Series of Poker" and "Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros" -- has been making the summer trek to Las Vegas from Alabama since 2004. When not playing poker, he's a professional journalist who's written for American Spectator, Fox News, HuffPost, Watchdog.org, and many others. He currently writes for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and serves on the FCC's media advisory panel.

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