Nevada Drops Mask Mandate as Las Vegas Casinos Gear Up for Super Bowl LVI
The statewide mask mandate in Nevada has come to an end, just in time for the busiest sports betting day of the year for Las Vegas sportsbooks.
The announcement, made by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday, cited a steady decline in COVID-19 cases in the Silver State, months after the omicron variant raged its way through Nevada.
The Democratic governor told Nevadans on a Facebook Live feed that the state’s steady decline in cases, as well as hospitalizations from the virus, motivated Thursday’s decision, though local school districts and municipalities are allowed to keep mandates in place should they see fit.
“Given all of these updates, and the tools that we now have, now is the appropriate time for me to announce that Nevada will rescind our mask mandate, effective immediately,” Sisolak said. “Masks will no longer be required in public places. But there are still locations where you may be asked to wear masks, masks and protective equipment requirements and facilities serving vulnerable populations, like hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities will be overseen at the direction, the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Last July, Nevada returned to a mask mandate at its casinos areas of the state hardest hit by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
How Decision Impacts Nevada Casinos
Sisolak’s announcement on Thursday covered a wide range of Nevada facilities, but not the state’s casinos.
Luckily for gamblers, the Nevada Gaming Control Board issued its own guidance shortly after, saying that casino staff and patrons no longer needed to wear a mask, though some facilities may still require such steps.
Sisolak said on Thursday he hopes that Nevada residents and visitors will continue to be courteous to others, helping the state’s economy surge forward.
He also is hopeful that the state’s economy can surge forward, without the burdens associated with the lingering pandemic dragging down their revenues. Nevada does not have real money online casinos yet.
“We put businesses through a lot in the last two years, clearly, it's my hope that this will; one, increase business for the businesses that are going to, you know, decide to remove a mask mandate they think it's going to attract more people,” Sisolak said. “I'm hopeful that it will help our employment situation as some people that didn’t come back to work because of the mask mandate, and that they will go back to work now, as a result of the mask mandate being eliminated. So, the economy has come back tremendously. You've seen it in our gaming numbers.”
Sisolak cited Nevada’s upward arc in state sports betting handle, which has topped $1 billion for three consecutive months, as proof that the state’s gambling market is thriving, despite the mandate. But he said it has more room to grow now that the mandate has been rescinded.
“We've got over a billion dollars a month (in handle). They continue to move forward under the leadership of control board chairman, J. Brin Gibson, and commission chairman (Jennifer Totliatti) as well. So, I'm hopeful that businesses will continue to prosper, and small businesses will continue their recovery.”
Steady Virus Decline in Nevada
Above all, Sisolak said that his decision to end Nevada’s mask mandate comes down to the science of the virus and its steady decline in prevalence in the state, rather than as an effort to score political points.
He said he hopes that Thursday’s decision will allow Nevada’s economy, which is largely centered around the tourism and casino industries, to thrive in the new year — hopefully putting the worst of the pandemic in the rear-view mirror.
“I have to make the decision based on the best information that is brought forward to me and that we've accumulated,” Sisolak said. “I balanced all of the interests that he had the medical information, business information that's coming forward. The opinions that people have expressed as relates to this and make a decision based on it.
”… I'm doing what I think is best to protect the health and welfare of the residents of the state of Nevada. I will continue to do that in mind is based on science, not politics.”