Preparing the palate: how an iconic Las Vegas casino plans to conquer COVID-19


LAS VEGAS, Nevada – In the heart of an almost empty Las Vegas Strip, the iconic Caesar Palace is empty. The doors of the hotel are locked for the first time in 54 years of history.

The casino floor is almost as silent as its statues, with the exception of the mermaid song automatically played by a few slot machines that resonate in polished rooms. It was the worst experience of Tony Rodio’s 40-year career in casinos. Now the CEO of Caesars Entertainment is embarking on the Herculean task of safely reopening the 85-acre complex in the COVID-19 era, he told CNN.

“People want to get back to normal. It will just be a process to get there, ”said Rodio.

The Caesars Palace initiative is part of at least four reopening plans unveiled to date by Las Vegas resort operators who are eager to serve tourists again while bringing workers back to work, even though unions require more transparency and the adoption of their own security guidelines. MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and The Venetian’s plans include potentially modifying HVAC systems, suspending buffet service, and defining protocols for what to do if a coronavirus test returns positive.

As states begin to implement plans for gradual reopening, the Nevada Gaming Commission sets out its agenda to safely bring Sin City back from economic hell. The gaming control board released guidelines for the reopening of casino restaurants on Thursday, but there is still no word on when games can begin.

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At Caesars Palace, card tables, dice games and even slot machines are being retooled through the casino, taking into account social distancing and disinfection, Rodio said.

“We are going to deactivate all the other slot machines and remove the saddles from play,” he said, standing in front of a dark slot machine in the center of a row of three machines. “A customer cannot even stay here and play this game because the game is not even active, so we will do it all over the floor. “

At the card tables, the number of seats will drop from six to three, he said. And say goodbye to the classic casino scene of a crowd cheering for a winning streak.

“No one can be less than 6 feet from the three customers who play,” said Rodio. “You are certainly not face to face. “

The changes are implemented as the odds for casino staff run out. According to Caesars Entertainment, 90% of its 60,000 employees worldwide have been laid off or laid off.

The new rules are a gamble in themselves

Without reliable book reserves and few staff remaining, it is hard to imagine how future revelers and the army of workers who serve them will adopt a new set of rules.

Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman has repeatedly requested that businesses in the city reopen, but declined to provide instructions on how to do it safely. “They better understand it,” she said last month, referring to business owners. “It is their job. It’s not the mayor’s job. “

Throughout the Caesars Palace, large red signs posted remind customers to stay 6 feet apart and encourage – but do not require – masks.

Employees will be subject to more stringent requirements – including masks during shifts and daily temperature checks. “They will also be asked to complete a questionnaire before going back to work for the first time to see if they have anything that might cause us to want to have them tested,” said Rodio.

As for Sisyphus’ sanitation task, “We have more than enough decks of cards, so we will change the decks of cards more frequently,” said Rodio.

The dice on the craps tables will be cleaned after each throw and the chips will also be frequently disinfected, he said. For large areas such as slot machines and elevator benches, employees will be equipped with electronic sprayers.

If you check in to any of the 3,960 rooms, you can use kiosks instead of the front desk, and cleaning staff won’t enter rooms during the stay, Rodio said.

“So you’re starting to see us move, you know, taking a small step, but a very important step, back to normal,” said Rodio.

The powerful culinary union of Las Vegas held a continuous demonstration Tuesday evening to demand that game operators reopen safely. Hundreds of cars were lined up on the strip, with hotel workers and their families honking their horns and waving signs saying “Don’t play with workers’ lives” and “Don’t throw the dice with our safety”.

Workers demand more transparency from casinos on reopening plans and ask Governor of Nevada to adopt union security protocols.

For the moment, the steps of a Caesars Palace are among the first in an odyssey towards a new casino culture, one that according to its leaders will keep the spirit of Las Vegas.

“I can’t tell you when we are going to return to 100%, but I am confident that we will get there,” said Rodio. “I think it will be in 2021 at some point. “


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