Cleaning Casinos

Cleaning Casinos

By Diane M. Calabrese / Published October 2020

Photo by iStockphoto.com/littleny

“I wish” and then some. That is basically what several contractors told us when we asked whether they clean casinos.

      Forty-eight states are home to casinos. (There are semantic quibbles over whether Utah and Hawaii do or do not have gaming.) Casino revenue is taxed at an exceptionally high rate, and when they are thriving, casinos generate a great deal of profit.

     Because casinos are nearly ubiquitous, interesting environments and now require more significant cleaning than ever, they should be on every contractor’s list of possibilities to explore.

     Landing a contract with a casino in many ways resembles the process of bidding on a job with the state. In part, it’s because states wield considerable control over casinos.

     Let’s look at all the dimensions of the casino environment for contractors. First, however, know that securing work with casinos is possible.

     Empire Highrise USA based in Kansas City, MO, has cleaned atriums, entrances, and related areas at casinos, explains Jorge S. Aguilar, CEO of the company. To date, he has not used pressure washers at casino sites.

     Activity and security are two big issues for customers. Because many casinos operate on a near 24/7 schedule, contractors must be organized. “Activity is major, but we plan ahead of time, which helps,” explains Aguilar. “It’s necessary to either close down major traffic areas or work during less busy hours.”

     Then, there’s security. “The main unique factor is that our team needs to be cleared as casinos hold large amounts of currency,” says Aguilar. “Our team is background checked and also given special badges in order to only access the areas needed.”

     Careful planning, restricted access as part of security, and related expectations are things that Aguilar’s company takes in stride. Extensive credentials document experience and capabilities, and they prepare Aguilar’s company for jobs with demanding criteria.

     Aguilar’s company is certified by the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA—high-rise, commercial, residential), Society of Professional Rope Access Technicians (SPRAT), and Power Washers of North America (PWNA—environmental, building wash, house wash, flat surfaces, CPR, first aid and AED [automated external defibrillation], Sunbelt aerial lift, scaffolding/swing-stage, and OSHA 1910 walking/working surfaces).

Country House?

     No one would mistake a vibrant and brightly lit casino for a small country house, yet the word “casino” derives most immediately from Italian (ultimately from Latin) for a small country house.

     As an entertainment venue, the casino moniker indicates the entertainment includes gambling. Many of the games-of-chance venues are attached to hotels and performance stages as well.

     Eighteen years ago, the debate over casinos was still going strong: Do they or do they not add to economic development? Thomas A. Garrett wrote in the winter 2002–2003 issue of Bridges, a publication of the Federal Reserve Bank—St. Louis, that $370 billion was wagered in the United States in 2000. (That constituted a per-person wager of $1,300.)

     Goods and services are not purchased with wagers (save perhaps with winnings), so many of us have concerns about gambling. Certainly, many states still did when Garrett wrote. That has changed.

     Concerns have been put aside as local and state governments look for revenue. In the Buckeye State, casinos are taxed at the rate of 33 percent on gross revenue. The Ohio disbursals of the tax revenue are 51 percent to counties and 34 percent to student funding (education). Single digit percentages go to various gaming authorities and local government.

     According to the World Casino Directory at www.worldcasinodirectory.com, the state with the largest number of casinos is Montana. It has 527 to Nevada’s 396. Other states with more than 100 casinos are California (173) and Oklahoma (136). Washington has 95. According to the same source, the United States has more casinos than any other country. The size of casinos varies greatly. Nevada claims the largest and most ornate.

     As casinos have multiplied across the country over the last two decades, states have tried to limit their reach by a variety of requirements. Some states allowed gambling on riverboats but not on land. In turn, would-be operators became creative with the definition of boats and rivers.

     In 2020, most contractors find themselves within working distance of a casino. They can explore local establishments.

     Many casinos publish their vendor opportunities online. Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino in East Peoria, IL, which is operated by Boyd Gaming Corporation, does. (See www.paradicecasino.com/vendor-opportunities.) Among the opportunities are cleaning of outside windows and kitchen-hood cleaning.

     Hollywood Casino in Aurora and Joliet, IL, also lists vendor needs online. (See www.hollywoodcasinoaurora.com/vendors.) It lists window cleaning and snow removal as opportunities.

     Although vendor-need lists may suggest cleaning of parking garages and building exteriors is done by in-house staff, securing a contract for a related service (e.g., window cleaning) can lead to more work. A casino may be persuaded to bid out additional work if there is satisfaction with the contractors.

     Maryland requires any company seeking to provide services or goods (unrelated to gaming) to a video lottery terminal (VLT) establishment to be registered or certified. Casinos are classified as VLT licensees in the Old Line State. (See mwmca.org/multimedias/news/pdf_file960.pdf.)

     Meeting eligibility just to bid on work at a casino often is a two-step process. Meet requirements of the state. Then, meet requirements of the casino owner.

     Contractors should still explore opportunities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that gaming will remain a growth sector throughout this decade. For instance, BLS expects the number of gaming workers to increase by five percent in this period, which is on par with gains in other growing industries.

     Caesar’s Entertainment Inc. operates 50 casinos in 13 states. Its first root was put down in Reno, NV. The company notes at its website that it has throughout its history had a commitment to hiring local, diverse, and small businesses. The FAQ the company provides about its registration and certification process for vendors is excellent. We recommend it as a good, general introduction of expectations for contractors aiming to connect with the gaming industry. (See www.caesars.com/supplier-diversity.)

A Clean House

     Casinos offer something of a fantasy experience. Even short of trying to replicate world wonders or amazing structures, operators want to ensure their visitors have a memorable experience.

     Nothing diminishes a glowing or glittering ambience more quickly than dirt. Consequently, casinos are kept clean. In 2020, they are not just kept clean, but they are also disinfected.

     In a world still defined by a pandemic, casinos must follow stringent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are specific CDC guidelines for casinos and gaming operations.

     States and state gaming commissions often augment the CDC guidelines. For example, Nevada’s advice could be summarized: If it exists, it must be clean. No equipment can be transferred from one employee to another at shift change or between shifts without being disinfected. That includes everything from phones and computers to keys and tools. It includes cleaning equipment itself.

     Contractors working as vendors for casinos must follow the same protocols as employees of the casino. Yes, a pressure washer in use by a contractor would have to be disinfected before it is handed from one team member to another.

    Casinos have reopened across the country. Looking at the exacting rules for cleaning and disinfection that casinos follow to open and remain open, we can guess that in-house staff are busier than ever and some casinos will be looking for more outside vendors, including cleaning contractors to assist.

     How do casinos maintain a healthy environment? They do the following (all from CDC): clean and disinfect frequently touched objects between uses as much as possible, limit customers’ sharing of objects and disinfect between uses, clean and disinfect gaming machines as much as possible—and add wipeable plastic covers to gaming terminals when possible.

     The casinos also meet CDC guidelines by developing a schedule for increased routine cleaning and disinfection. And they ensure chemicals are used and stored properly.

     In addition, the casinos have improved ventilation. They have modified configurations of both visitor spaces and games so customers are not too close to one another. They have placed guides and barriers to remind customers how to maintain a safe distance.

     In 2019, U.S. casinos saw approximately $43 billion in profit. They are sufficiently gainful that states and localities sharing in the take via taxation want casinos to be open. And the venues are doing what they must to be open. In Maryland, casinos are open while in some jurisdictions (this writer’s) basketball hoops are still not mounted—because basketball is forbidden.

     Worse, schools are slated to remain closed. Why? Perhaps because the understanding of risk is fundamental to the games played in casinos—at least by successful gamers. And there is insufficient understanding on the outside.

     Even so, given the number of visitors, the movement, and the array of games in a casino, there is some similarity to the activity within a school. Ought school administrators to begin to consult with casino operators so that they can reopen schools now?

     Meanwhile, contractors not involved with casinos should quit wishing they were and make a move: Take a calculated chance. 

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