Sharon Harris ponders a mass of unknowns…


o mask or not to mask; to go or not to go…those are the questions. It’s not quite as eloquent as Shakespeare, but you get the point. Although Hamlet agonized over his “to be or not to be” question, returning casino patrons may not have

to. Their decisions could depend on where they go and which governmental precautions they find acceptable. Public regulations and restrictions remain inconsistent

across state lines. Pity those casino companies operating in multiple states. They must weigh their investments in public safety against each operating jurisdiction’s mandates as a condition to reopen. Unlike many countries worldwide, where a centralized

government often sets the rules, the US combines federal and state law. Our federalist system allows state legislatures of these 50 separate “laboratories” of democracy to take priority when establishing laws. The hit play “Hamilton” on Broadway and in London

profiles George Washington protégé Alexander Hamilton’s life. Hamilton wanted an all-powerful central government and advocated eliminating statehood. Conversely, Thomas Jefferson, the brilliant author of the

1776 Declaration of Independence, advocated the opposite, sparking their historic mutual contempt in late 1700s colonial America. As part of the southern aristocracy, Jefferson held a states’ right philosophy meant to limit the federal government’s power. While president, Washington named Hamilton as his first

Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795). Hamilton then pushed for a national banking system and currency. In 2020, after adding 37 states over 244 years, and fighting a hideous Civil War from 1861-1865, the two philosophies persist and are still often at odds.

10 JULY 2020

As America gradually reopens after three-plus months of hellish lockdowns from Covid-19, doing it right is now an interstate issue. For example, when many Nevada casinos opened in early June, the casino property’s infrastructure dictated its safety and sanitation procedures. At first, all employees had to wear masks, but customers had an option. That changed when Las Vegas became a Covid-19 hot spot. On June 24, Governor Steve Sisolak ordered everyone in all casinos to wear a mask. Companies like Caesars Entertainment have upped the

ante. Everyone at every property, including employees, guests, contractors, vendors and those passing by, must wear masks at all times. Since no one will want to be outdone, especially with such dire consequences, I predict this will be duplicated industrywide. Close to my home, Atlantic City’s July 4th weekend casinos openings, with strict capacity and mask mandates, gave hope to the region’s operators and amusement pier businesses. As casinos slowly welcome guests again, there is great

uncertainty. Virus spikes have forced the shutdown of three tribal casinos in Arizona and 12 states have now rolled back general reopening plans. Every smart casino has invested in safety measures, including adding separators, installing new air filter systems, spacing slots and table positions and offering sanitizers throughout. Those elements all impact revenues and challenge sustained

profitability. The giants may be more likely to succeed, but their financial challenges have sweeping effects. Based in Texas, Golden Nugget and Landry’s owner Tillman

Fertitta conveyed bad news in June. He blamed travel and dining out fears for threatening his casinos and restaurants. Revenues have dropped 40-45%, even in their best-

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