coronavirus pandemic

Casino Workers Voice Concerns Over Safety Protocols, Enforcement

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Casinos are up and running with modifications due to COVID-19, but some casino workers said establishing protocols might not be enough, and more might be needed to ensure the safety of workers.

Some casinos have been open for more than a month, and specific protocols have been established like requiring a mask and temperature checks at the door.

Local hotel and hospitality workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 30 President, Bridgette Browning says the newly established protocols aren't the problem from her view. She says it's the enforcement that concerns her.

“When I went to Jamul and to Sycuan, I was concerned that I saw guests with their masks around their neck, a large number of them, and I didn’t see really see any interaction to try and get them to put the masks back on,” Browning says.

NBC 7 was sent photos and videos from Jamul and Sycuan from a source who wishes to stay anonymous. Some of the materials show patrons not wearing masks and practicing little distancing at the tables.

Browning says enforcement has fallen on the shoulders of workers who might not be equipped to handle the load.

“I think they are very uncomfortable with it because they haven’t been trained to be rule enforcers,” Browning says. “Their training has been all-around guest satisfaction.”

Browning alluded to the difficult conundrum potentially facing casino workers whose roles involve close contact with customers.

“It’s a double-edged sword of bad,” Browning says. “Like, they can pretend like it’s not happening then they are potentially exposing themselves to the virus, or they can try to enforce the rules they were not trained to enforce and then they go home and make half as much money as they normally make.”

NBC 7 spoke to workers from both casinos. One worker from Sycuan agreed to an interview but asked his identity to be concealed out of fear of retaliation. He says the casino has established safety protocols but is worrisome about how much he’s still at risk.

“There are a lot of times where guests get upset, and they kind of start complaining to you, still with their mask off, and it makes me feel uncomfortable because it’s putting me more at risk if they are talking at me with their mask off,” the employee told NBC 7.

The worker says he has verbal exchanges with non-mask wearers at least 20 times a day and is asking management to tighten the belt, whether that means bringing on additional members to solely address mask-related issues or crackdown on enforcement altogether.

“Especially on the floor. Be strict about regulations to better protect team members that are really risking themselves on the frontlines,” the employee said.

Jamul and Sycuan responded to our requests for comment saying:

“Upon our reopening, the vast majority of our guests have been compliant and continue to be diligent by following our new safety procedures including wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, passing temperature checks, washing their hands and staying home if they are feeling unwell. For any guests that are not following our required protocols, our team members are instructed to take immediate action to correct the behavior and ensure all rules are being enforced at our establishment. We take our health and sanitation program extremely seriously and continue to be vigilant to keep our team members and guests safe.” - Sycuan Casino

“It is clear that numerous businesses have had issues in this regard. Ultimately, we disagree that there is a significant issue at this operation. In fact, Jamul Casino has the best in class health and sanitation protocols to keep our guests and team members safe. All guests and team members are required to follow our screening and on-site policies, including wearing masks when they are not eating or drinking. If a mask is not worn, guests are reminded or requested to leave if they choose not to comply.  As we've seen at other businesses, and noted by other public officials, it's a constant effort to educate and remind people to follow the various public health guidelines. We ask members of the public, if you can’t live up to these standards, please do not visit Jamul Casino. For those who wish to visit, we ask for your assistance in compliance to keep our guests and team members safe.” -Jamul Casino

When asked UNITE HERE Local 30 on their response to guests sitting at slot machines by themselves and not near the proximity of others, they said they are worried people are going to get sick and that masks need to be on at all times.

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