New York City’s rule of requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in indoor entertainment venues may seem straightforward. But Blasio’s administration said the decree did not apply to one of the biggest entertainment venues in the five arrondissements.
Resorts World Casino, a million-square-foot indoor entertainment space in Queens, does not have to verify players’ proof of vaccination, according to the mayor’s office.
Why is a large indoor casino exempt from the same rule that applies to tens of thousands of other indoor dining and entertainment businesses? The mayor’s office said Resorts World can set its own policy on vaccination checks because the company operates on New York state property.
Governor Kathy Hochul has yet to respond to an I-Team investigation asking whether the state can – or should – require the huge casino to comply with city regulations.
Last month, I-Team hidden camera video confirmed that casino staff were welcoming players without any request for proof of vaccination. Security guards have asked customers to temporarily remove face masks, but only so that surveillance cameras can see their faces. But hundreds of players were allowed in without any questions about their vaccination records.
Dan Bank, spokesperson for Resorts World, did not respond directly to questions about whether the Queens Casino ever checks guests for proof of vaccination.
âWe have a series of health protocols in place as part of our 21-point safety plan, which includes a mandate to vaccinate customers when they dine at indoor restaurants,â Bank wrote in an e- mail to the I-Team.
Although a sign at the casino’s food court read “Proof of vaccination required before you can take your order,” I-Team members were able to order food, sit at a table and order food. eat – without any staff member asking for proof of vaccination.
Other signs on the casino floor suggest the business is subject to the city’s executive decree. Near the entrances, above one of the casino bars, and near the security checkpoints, there are signs that read: “New York City requires you to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter. this company. “
Despite this message to players on the casino floor, a copy of the casino security plan states that “guests and team members who are not yet fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be asked to wear face masks on the property. “
The mixed messages may explain why Resorts World Casino is among the city’s businesses receiving the most 311 complaints from New Yorkers alleging violations of the city’s rule.
Between August 13 and October 31, the I-Team found 3,005 complaints to 311 about indoor sites not checking vaccination cards. Resorts World Casino has been the subject of 22 complaints. The communities attracting the most complaints are Astoria and Midtown, two neighborhoods with a high concentration of restaurants and bars.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance, cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from 311 calls.
âBased on the 311 calls, you might have someone calling and calling and calling to complain, so you really have to go in and look at the data,â Rigie said. âThe vast majority of restaurants comply with this requirement. “
Indeed, the restaurant with the most complaints is an Astoria company that doesn’t even allow patrons to dine inside – and therefore is not required to check vaccine status. The owner and manager of Yes Chef Wine Bar on 30e Avenue says they limit seating at their sidewalk and street tables – precisely because they’re uncomfortable asking customers to produce immunization cards.
The city has started enforcing rules requiring workers and customers to be vaccinated to enter restaurants, museums and places of entertainment. NBC New York’s Anjali Hemphill reports.
Despite this, 311 callers complained after seeing a sign in the restaurant window explaining that they did not “distinguish” between vaccinated and unvaccinated customers.
âWe’re not the bad guys people say,â said Phillip Chorba, the restaurant manager. âWe just don’t want to have someone inside because we don’t want to check your medical records. “
Mitch Schwartz, spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said the vast majority of restaurants check vaccination cards in the hopes that customers would gain confidence to dine at the restaurant.
âBusinesses are as concerned about the safety of staff and customers as we are,â said Schwartz. âThat’s why over 92% of the companies we inspect comply with the Key to NYC mandate. ”
New York City Emergency Executive Order No. 225, signed August 16e, states that guests must show proof of vaccination to enter the ‘interior parts of. . … cinemas, concert or music halls, adult entertainment, casinos âand many other places in the city surrounded by walls and a roof.
November 1st, the city had carried out 56,500 inspections, resulting in 8,400 warnings for interior companies surprised not to check the status of vaccines. A first violation only results in a warning. The second infractions result in fines of $ 1,000 while the third infractions would cost a business $ 2,000. The fourth offense and all subsequent offenses result in fines of $ 5,000.
So far, only 22 fines of $ 1,000 each have been imposed for failing to verify vaccination cards.