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Enforcement era is upon us

The Nevada Gaming Commission hit state casinos with a total of $435,000 in fines on Thursday for a combination of COVID-19 regulatory violations and one big policy failing.

The greatest number of fines was handed out for COVID-19 health and safety rules violations. They covered things like lack of social distancing enforcement, failure to wear protective face masks, and bar top gaming violations. None of the fines were too substantial, but as Brandon Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors LLC told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the point was to “send a message that these protocols are to be taken seriously.”

Bussmann added that he believed it was the Attorney General’s office effectively saying: “….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.”

The bulk of the total fines – $300,000 – was assessed on the Fremont Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas for wrongly accusing a customer of theft and subsequently detaining her for an hour and a half.

COVID-19 rules violations

Starting with the COVID-19 rules breakers, the largest fine was given to two casinos owned by the Meruelo Group: the Sahara in Las Vegas and the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. On August 3, an NGC agent reported non-players at the Sahara crowded in between gamblers at tables or around slots players, violating social distancing rules. Additionally, the casino hosted a 135-person luncheon, much more than the allowed 50-person maximum.

Grand Sierra was reported for violating mask and social distancing regulations. Combined, the two properties were fined $75,000.

Cod Casino in Minden was fined $30,000 for mask violations. Someone anonymously reported the problem on July 24, and even though a casino executive told an NGC agent that he let managers know of the violation, the agent saw customers without masks when he returned later in the day.

Cheers in Winnemucca was fined $15,000 for having bar top slot machines on and available. Hotel Nevada in Ely didn’t do enough to enforce mask rules – for both patrons and employees – and was fined $10,000. Incline Bowl in Incline Village was fined $5,000 for bar top slot machine violations.

Fremont went all-in with nothing

And then there is the $300,000 that the NGC fined Fremont. The case goes back to November 24, 2019, when just after midnight, one woman accused another of playing on her slot machine that still contained $20 in credits. A security officer grabbed the accused woman from behind, cuffed her, and took her to a holding area to wait for police. She was held for 90 minutes.

In the end, after reviewing security footage, police determined that the woman had done absolutely nothing wrong and had been detained for no good reason.

“Based on the conversations between the patron, the security officer and the Metro officer, it is clear that Fremont personnel did not have a correct understanding of what the evidence purportedly showed,” the complaint filed with the NGC reads.

The NGC said that Fremont officials had plenty of opportunity to investigate the situation themselves, rather than cuffing and detaining an innocent woman.

“Instead,” the NGC said, “they performed a cursory, incomplete, and factually flawed investigation, wrongfully concluding that the accused patron had committed the alleged act and was guilty of misdemeanor theft. A proper investigation would have revealed that the claim against the patron was not valid.”

On top of that, the woman, not wanting to be arrested, “reluctantly and under protest” paid her accuser $202.

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