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Casinos not gambling with patron health

Last Modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 10:29 AM

By Justin B. Phillips / American Press

On most nights, casinos are filled with visitors looking to grab dinner or maybe win big on a slot machine or table game. Throughout the building, levers are pulled, dice are thrown, buttons are pressed and chips pass from hand to hand. With flu season typically reaching its peak around January and February, this could easily be a recipe for disaster in most venues. At L’Auberge, a priority is placed on cleanliness, no matter the time of year.

Kerry Andersen, director of public relations and public affairs for Pinnacle Entertainment, said the casino has always placed an emphasis on cleanliness, and the peak of flu season is no different.

“Obviously we want to ensure germs aren’t spread, but cleanliness no matter what has always been our focus,” Andersen said. “We have a full-time building and grounds crew whose sole purpose is to maintain the cleanliness of the facility. That’s just part of our standards.”

Flu season typically runs from October to May, and health officials say it isn’t too late for people to get their flu shots. In a casino with several restaurants, a bustling gaming floor and hundreds of hotel rooms, Andersen said, there has always been an emphasis on detail.

“Many places have their own policies and procedures,” she said. Since we’re a world-class resort, we strive for cleanliness, and that includes railings, machines, public areas,” Andersen said. “There are hand sanitizer wipes available on the gaming floor. A lot of these things are standard industry requirements.”

Even though visitors to the casino may not see a machine get wiped down as soon as someone vacates the seat, Andersen said the process is done in a timely manner. The process stretches past the ringing machines and rolling dice. It even involves the restaurant employees and hotel workers.

“When you take into account the restaurants, they are going to have even more standards to follow. All of the employees in our restaurants go through training for food handling and cleanliness,” Andersen said. “Even our laundry is meticulously cleaned. The employees who deal with the laundry have a college they go to get certified in how to properly clean the laundry. It’s a very lengthy and intense certification process.”

There are steps casino visitors can take long before walking into the lobby to cut down the odds of catching the flu. Some of the steps health officials say to follow during the flu season include washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; try to avoid close contact with sick people; and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Lifestyle tips include getting plenty of sleep, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthy food.

Officials also say that if you are healthy and come in contact with someone with the flu, antiviral medications can help. Antiviral drugs are 70 percent to 90 percent effective at preventing the flu. If you’re sick with flulike symptoms, officials say to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Andersen said the bottom line for resorts like L’Auberge is they would not be open if not for passing the proper health code requirements. The process is strenuous and includes everything from inspections to secret shoppers who visit the casino and report on the venue’s cleanliness.

“Even in the back of the house, we have procedures for employees. There are also hand sensitizers for them to use,” Andersen said. “Not only for cleanliness but for customer courtesy. A lot of our practices are similar to other big resorts like Disney.”

Even with local residents concerned about spending time in crowded places like casinos because it is flu season, Andersen said they can rest assured. She said she is confident L’Auberge visitors will be enjoying their time in the cleanest environment possible.

“We have dedicated team members ensuring that the resort is the cleanest it can possibly be,” Andersen said. “I’m very proud of the cleanliness of our resort. I’d put it up against any place, even Disney. And that’s what they’re known for.”

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