The reopening of casinos in Las Vegas earlier this month was a gamble amid the pandemic.
Sadly, it now looks like that might have been a bad bet.
In the nearly three weeks since Sin City casinos and other businesses throughout Nevada began welcoming guests again, the state has seen a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 infections. On June 20, Nevada recorded 445 new cases, breaking a record set the day before with the biggest single-day jump in new diagnoses since the dawn of the pandemic. As of this writing, Nevada has had 486 deaths, including eight over the weekend.
Of course, casinos don't deserve all the blame. The state also opened gyms, salons, and restaurants, among other businesses.
But viral photos showing multitudes of maskless revelers in Vegas have suggested that many of the city's visitors are engaging in risky behavior.
The situation got so bad that the Nevada Gaming Control Board ruled last week that guests will now have to wear masks at table games that lack barriers between players and dealers.
But even with that new regulation, huge numbers of people are still going bare-faced at casinos, playing slots, drinking at the bars, and engaging in other activities while spreading who knows how many germs.
So Caesars Entertainment got creative, capitalizing on why many go to Vegas in the first place: the chance to get easy money.
Over the weekend, masked gamblers started receiving rewards of $20 worth of free play at both Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas. The resorts tweeted out photos of mask-wearing, coupon-waving gamblers to get the word out.
Will the strategy be effective? I certainly hope so—keeping people safe is more important than keeping slot machines running.
In fact, if I were a croupier or other staffer at a Vegas resort, I'd be calling my state legislators and demanding that they get serious about protecting my health.
There is no reason why, at this point, masks can't be required by law in casinos. The scientific consensus is that masks help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Besides, in the air-conditioned frigidity of a Vegas casino, a mask might even help keep your nose warm. Or at least cover up your chattering teeth.
But the best argument for wearing a mask in public is the Golden Rule. Don't be a spittle-spreading jerk unto others, and maybe they won't be a spittle-spreading jerk unto you.
Update, June 28: As of this weekend, the state of Las Vegas now requires the use of masks in public indoor spaces.