When the Mohegan Sun Pocono casino reopens Monday for the first time in more than three months, the temperature of everyone entering will be screened by thermal cameras without their necessarily realizing it.
At the Lady Luck Nemacolin casino, which opened June 12, guests’ temperatures are also checked — but they know it, because it’s with a handheld device pointed at their forehead.
And in some Pennsylvania casinos, temperatures are not monitored, because is not a mandate of the state Gaming Control Board or health officials as a method of addressing COVID-19 concerns.
Everyone in one of the state’s casinos — three of them now open and three more to open over the next several days — must wear a facial covering and is expected to abide by social distancing guidelines. Special cleaning practices are in place, with hand sanitizer and wipes widely available and their use encouraged.
But whether and how to conduct body temperature checks is a variable among the casinos, as has been the case nationally.
Some states mandate them in casinos, while others don’t. In the latter, some properties voluntarily utilize them, others don’t. And some places do checks on employees but not on patrons.
No one yet denied entry at Lady Luck
Lady Luck Nemacolin, located in rural Fayette County as the state’s smallest casino, was the third casino to reopen last week. It was the first, however, to institute widespread temperature checks, as Pittsburgh’s Rivers Casino and the Meadows Racetrack & Casino opted not to do so.
Gary Hendricks, Lady Luck’s general manager, said the implementation was a corporate-wide decision by the property’s owner, Churchill Downs Inc., which operates casinos in multiple states.
A fever is one of the symptoms of COVID-19, along with coughing, headaches and other ailments, but those symptoms don’t mean someone has the coronavirus unless they test positive. Casino staff that conduct temperature checks, in addition to denying someone entry, would typically encourage them to be tested for the virus at a medical facility if they register high.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Hendricks said of the temperature checks. He noted in an interview Wednesday that in the first six days of operation, no one at Lady Luck had actually screened above 100 degrees twice, which is what it would take for them to be denied entry.
Hendricks said employees using the handheld devices point them near the forehead of each patron as they enter. In a few cases, someone walking in after time in the sun has registered a high temperature, and then on a second check they have returned to normal levels and been welcomed inside.
In general, he said, people seem to appreciate the precaution being taken.
“Everybody reacts a little differently, but nobody I’ve seen has complained about it,” Hendricks said. “They’ve all been very accommodating in standing there for a moment. It just takes a second and they’re on their way. I think the vast majority are reassured that we’re doing it.”
Mohegan Sun using more costly technology
When Mohegan Sun Pocono greets customers again at 10 a.m. Monday, it will be utilizing the same temperature monitoring camera devices as Mohegan Sun’s flagship property in Connecticut.
The thermal cameras simultaneously do temperature checks and facial identification of everyone entering, who do not need to slow down and in many cases are oblivious to the testing despite signs that advise them of the cameras, said Roland Ocampo, chief security executive for the Mohegan Tribe.
He said the tribe voluntarily decided to install the equipment at all of its properties to help ease concerns, partly due to public warnings by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont that reopening the large casino in Uncasville posed a health risk. The tribe operates as a sovereign nation in that state, with Lamont unable to regulate its operations.
In Pennsylvania, Mohegan Sun Pocono is regulated just like other casinos. Mohegan Sun executives decided early on to install the same equipment there without awaiting state guidance, Ocampo said.
The cameras known as Thermal Temperature Monitoring Solutions, from Dahua Security, are priced in the $20,000 range, as opposed to handheld devices that cost Lady Luck $50 to $70 each. Mohegan Sun has far more people entering, however – some 10,000 daily in Connecticut
“We knew as a corporate policy, regardless of where, that we wanted to make sure we were keeping our guests and team members safe,” Ocampo said. “We didn’t want to sit back, based on money, and see if they were made mandatory.”
He declined to provide numbers on how many individuals since the Connecticut casino reopened June 1 have been denied entry due to having two readings in which their temperature exceeded 100.2.
“A lot of people are were expecting us to be overwhelmed by people with [high] temperatures,” but that has not been the case, Ocampo said.
Temp checks for workers, not guests
The Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in suburban Harrisburg will be the next to reopen, at 9 a.m. Friday.
Among the new health and safety protocols that owner Penn National Gaming has publicized on the casino’s website is one stating: “Team members will undergo temperature checks prior to shifts. Guests will be required to wear masks and must respond to a health screening prior to entry.”
Because of their abundance of interaction with a wide range of customers, casino employees obviously have special concerns, even with all of the precautions taken.
The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh reported Wednesday that one of its employees recalled to work has, in fact, been diagnosed with COVID-19. No further details of the employee’s work or health status were revealed.
Like Mohegan Sun, Mount Airy Casino Resort is also to reopen Monday, at noon. As is the case with some other casinos, it is letting the public know in advance that their temperatures might be checked, but not necessarily.
“At the discretion of Mount Airy Casino Resort staff, our security team may conduct non-invasive temperature checks utilizing digital/thermal temperature readers at points of entry,” Mount Airy’s website states.