Vaccine passports and masks at casinos cause concerns worldwide

Since Covid variants continue to infect globally and fill hospitals, masks mandates and proof of vaccination are becoming requirements to gamble at casinos worldwide.

The 'return to normal' may require a vaccine passport and masking to gamble in a casino

One of the most controversial issues in the world right now revolves around proof of Covid vaccination and masks to enter indoor facilities. Some countries are requiring proof of vaccination to enter any establishments, while other countries are leaving it up to the individual states or provinces. In some instances, the decision is even left to the city itself.

In Louisiana masks are required for all indoor activities by state law including at casinos, and Harrah's in New Orleans is requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to gain entry to their casino. While most restaurants, nightclubs, movie theaters and event centers in places that require proof of vaccine (or in some places proof of a negative Covid test within 72 hours of entry), have just accepted it as a requirement of doing business, many casinos are fighting back.

Covid casino gambling US Global The problem, as one casino operator in Las Vegas told me, is that the nature of gambling involves taking risks. And a large percentage of patrons won't get the vaccine because they believe the odds are in their favor of not getting sick or dying even if they catch Covid and fear the vaccines more than the virus itself. The casino operator acknowledged that vaccines also help protect others, but he suspected if vaccines were mandated in Nevada, the casino he works at would lose at least 25% of its customers. In fact, the operator said that when mask mandates became a requirement to enter Nevada casinos two months ago, he saw traffic decline greatly, mostly due to a decrease in travel from individuals in other states who refuse to wear masks to gamble.

Vaccines and/or masks may be necessary to gamble

As of the beginning of September, no state has a vaccine mandate to enter casinos, but they could be coming. New York had planned to mandate vaccines but had to back down when a federal court ruled that the state’s requirement that front line workers had to be vaccinated was unconstitutional. The state is challenging the ruling, but apparently, they won't mandate vaccines elsewhere until this case is completely adjudicated. Of course, individual businesses have the right to mandate vaccines for entry and no doubt New York is encouraging the casinos there to do just that. A person I spoked to at the Seneca Casino in Niagara Falls said that the tribe will make that decision and will not be dictated to by the state.

As for masks, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, and the District of Columbia all require masks to enter casinos. California, New York, Colorado, and Connecticut require masks if the person is not vaccinated, but it's optional if the person can prove full vaccination. When I spoke to a customer service representative. at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, she was quite clear that if you show proof of vaccination, you are free to wear a mask, or not. But, if you are not vaccinated or can't show proof then you will be required to wear a mask, keep a distance from others and may not be allowed in some crowded areas. She also told me that the cameras keep a close eye on the non-vaccinated individuals and if they are caught breaking the rules they will be removed and banned from the casino.

Other states do not have mask mandates, although from what I've been told almost all the Northern state casinos east of Montana require masks to be worn for those who can't provide proof of vaccination. I called a representative from the MGM Hotel and Casino in Detroit and asked if masks were mandatory. He said they weren't if a patron is fully vaccinated and that includes casino workers, but masks are required for gamblers who are not. That said he did admit that they use the honor system and do not require patrons to show proof of vaccination to enter, however their information is written down for contact tracing purposes if a patron does not show proof of full vaccination. And in Pennsylvania a spokesman for Harrah's Philadelphia told me the same thing, saying that mask wearing is only recommended for those who are not fully vaccinated, and they do not require proof. In all cases, including for states that require masks for everyone regardless of vaccination status, casino spokespeople told me that they have not seen any major drop in attendance because of mask rules.

Global Rules

In other countries, however, the rules are far less willy-nilly.

Canada leaves vaccine passports and mask requirements up to the provinces. On July 1, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan lifted all Covid restrictions, while every other province still required those entering a casino to always wear masks. The plan by Alberta and Saskatchewan backfired as both provinces have seen huge rises in Covid cases and hospital use because of the premature opening. In fact, the province of Alberta has announced a state of emergency since their ICU usage is nearing capacity. Consequently, Alberta announced a mask mandate last week and has said that as of the end of this month proof of vaccination will be required to enter any indoor establishment (except religious services), including casinos. Saskatchewan installed a mask mandate last month and has announced plans for a vaccine passport and every other province has followed suit. Quebec was the first to require proof of vaccination to enter a casino in August and Ontario premiere Doug Ford reluctantly announced that vaccines or a recent negative PCR test would be necessary to enter all establishments, including casinos, as of Monday.

Covid casinos masks vaccinesIn Europe, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Greece, Croatia, and Poland have all instituted vaccine mandates to enter any indoor establishments, including casinos and it is expected that by the end of the year all 27 member EU nations will require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test to enter any indoor establishments. In France that ruling has led to violent protests. Thus far the UK has opted not to have vaccine passports as their parliament ruled it’s an infringement on people's rights, although Boris Johnson is being watched closely and may have to reconsider, like Alberta did, if UK cases continue to rise. Johnson is hoping that booster vaccines will stave off increases in Covid, although that is unlikely since 35% of the UK population is still unvaccinated. Spain and Sweden seem to be the two EU countries that are wavering on the issue, although Spain did try to institute a vaccine passport earlier for entries to indoor places, including casinos. But, they have backtracked due to unforeseen problems with their plan. One item of note is that in all instances masks are required indoors and the public just accepts that as a requirement for everyday life.

Elsewhere, Australia is prepared to issue a type of vaccine passport, although currently all casinos are closed in the country and New Zealand will almost certainly follow suit. China (including Hong Kong) has a type of vaccine passport with different colors on a QR code, indicating where people can go, which of course affects casino visits to Macau, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc., all which have vaccine passports (although sources say almost 100% of eligible people in Asia have received the Sinopharm vaccine, and mask wearing is a common practice there regardless of whether there is a pandemic or not). And Japan has just created a new vaccine passport system as vaccine availability has finally started to creep up in that country, which could be important if their planned casino resorts ever get off the ground. India is leaving it up to businesses to require proof of vaccines and a colleague in Delhi said that casinos in that country require masks and at least one requires proof of vaccine. South Africa just announced a vaccine passport plan, which will include the three casinos there and in most South and Central American countries, including Brazil and Argentina it is being left up to the individual regions. Other countries not mentioned, such as the Arab countries, do not allow gambling.  Mexico is the only country with casinos that is adamant it will not create a vaccine passport under any circumstances.

So, while many Americans seem to be upset about the idea of vaccine passports and mandatory mask wearing because they believe it's not the government's role to tell them what to do, it is clear that in most other democratic counties the governments are mandating rules to enter indoor establishments, including casinos, and the public just accepts it as a necessity to try and live as normally as possible. Of course, nearly every other country has not made vaccines and masks a political issue.

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