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Pahrump casinos reopen for business

By the looks of its parking lot, it appears that operations at the Pahrump Nugget Hotel Casino are slowly, but surely, returning to normal, albeit with a few modifications, according to Regional Vice President and General Manager Mark Seligman of Golden Casino Group.

The company operates two additional properties in Pahrump, which include the Lakeside Casino and RV Park, along with the Gold Town Casino, which are also open for business.

Chief among the changes due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Seligman outlined what’s termed as the “Golden Commitment,” when the Pahrump Nugget reopened at 12:01 a.m. on June 4, after closing back in mid-March when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos and other businesses closed to control the spread of COVID-19.

“It outlines everything that we are doing from a cleanliness standpoint,” he said. “We are cleaning the chips once a week, and when the tables empty out, we clean them off. In the restaurants, we sanitize the tables, and we went to QR code menus.”

QR codes are essentially bar codes which contain information about menu items.

Dining and gaming area changes

Seligman also said disposable menus are available, and staff no longer preset tables in the restaurants.

Additionally, all hostesses are now positioned behind plexiglass, and all tables are marked with a placard to show they have been sanitized between parties.

“All team members have to wear masks at all times while working as part of our reopening plan…,” Seligman said.

Changes did occur to the gaming areas as part of the reopening.

“We have also modified the layout of the gaming tables and slot machines to adhere to social distancing standards,” Seligman said. “Our cleaning crew will continuously sanitize all surfaces in the casino.”

On Wednesday, the Nevada Gaming Control Board sent out a notice to nonrestricted licensees on an update to its policy on face masks.

“Licensees must require patrons to wear face coverings at table and card games if there is no barrier, partition, or shield between the dealer and each player,” the notice stated. “This requirement applies to table and card game players, spectators, and any other person within six feet of any table or card game.”

According to the notice, the change, not part of the initial requirements set out by the control board, was based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“…The Nevada Gaming Control Board has updated its policy for nonrestricted licensees in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 between people who are in close contact with each other for at least 15 minutes,” the notice stated.

Back to work

When asked whether all of the employees at the Pahrump Nugget have returned to work, Seligman essentially said yes.

“In general, everybody is not in a temporary layoff status any further, unless somebody has moved or chosen to not come back due to health-related issues,” he noted. “Generally, everybody was very happy to be back to work in these challenging times. I thought we might have more people who might not return, but I was pleasantly surprised at how many people did return, and were happy to come back to work.”

Hotel operations

Regarding the issue of hotel guests returning, Seligman said rooms are indeed getting booked.

“We have been as high as 75 percent since we reopened,” he noted. “It’s June and it’s the slowest time of year, but there’s a lot of people that are finally getting out in America and we are experiencing a little bit higher occupancy than we normally do. We are not required to limit occupancy in the hotel, but in the casino, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has regulated that we have been reduced to 50 percent fire code occupancy for the entire property. We continuously monitor the head counts, and if we get up to 50 percent of the fire code occupancy, we have to start limiting access into the property.”

Still paying out as usual

Seligman also addressed the many comments posted on social media platforms that gaming machines at the properties are now tighter, thus not paying out as often, prior to the closure.

He noted that all of the gaming machines were left powered on during the shutdown.

“I have been doing slots for 30 years, and I’ve worked in multiple jurisdictions all over,” he said. “In general, the day we set the machine on the floor, it pretty much stays the same until we take it off the floor, and it’s all based on popularity. We don’t make adjustments, and it’s not easy to do. It’s an old falsehood that when a new casino opens, they have tight machines and over time, they loosen them up. It’s just not true.”

Welcome back

Further, Seligman provided his personal thoughts on the midnight grand reopening this month.

“We really didn’t know what to expect, but I would say that we were pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We opened at 12:01 a.m. because that was the exact time laid out by the Gaming Control Board. All of our loyal guests had been calling and asking us to come back. When we were able to open, we opened at 12:01, and we had a line out front. There were probably over 65 people waiting outside the Nugget, and there were lines at all three properties waiting to get in. Some people trickled in a little bit later, but it was okay for a Thursday after midnight for sure.”

On a final note, Seligman again emphasized the importance of the safety and health of all employees and guests at Golden Casino Group properties in Pahrump.

“Prior to reopening, everybody was screened for COVID-19 and I’m happy to say that we have had no positive cases,” he said. “Prior to going on shift, employees have to get their temperature taken, and if they are over 100.4 degrees, they will be asked to go home. We have almost doubled our cleaning staff to be compliant with the state’s requirements and we have hand sanitizers and hand wipes throughout the property. We are actually getting more hand sanitizers in. We ordered them in April, and they just came in. In general, we are back and we are open. From a patron standpoint, we hope to give everyone who comes to visit the Pahrump Nugget, Gold Town Casino or Lakeside Casino and RV Park the trip of a lifetime and we are doing everything we can to ensure a safe and healthy stay.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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