Casinos are sure to ask, what can we do to prevent the spread of the virus? In legal terms, they will ask, what is sufficient to avoid liability for negligence if we are sued by virus-infected protectors on our premises?
As a first-year law student could tell you, neglect arises when you fail to perform the usual treatment when you owe someone a debt. Knowing the conditions that could lead to the spread of the virus, casinos may be liable for negligence if they fail to take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening.
Casinos may enforce social distancing, but that will be problematic at the poker table. The player may be asked to wear a mask, but the dealer must be prepared to translate the player’s “mumble” to “Raise – 500.” And with the dealers themselves perhaps wearing masks, table communication can become like a game of Telephone. A mask will be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus from bodily fluids, but chips passing from hand to hand may also create exposure. Even before the current situation, many tournament chips looked like laboratory petri dishes.
If there is a risk that any action they take may not be successfully assembled in court to defend itself against a claim of negligence, the casino may try to pass that risk back to the customer. They will do that by having the customer agree to so-called exemption clauses – terms in a contract where one party agrees not to hold the other accountable for its negligent acts.
If you have engaged in potentially hazardous activities such as sky diving or bungee-jumping, the forms they sign you before you engage in those activities without a doubt contain such a provision – as you will know since you read them carefully.
If signing the release turns out to be awkward, the casino could try to bind you unofficially; for example, they could put up a sign at the entrance that states something like, “By entering this card room you agree not to hold the casino liable for negligence.” But the court may conclude that by engaging in that passive act, the patron does not agree to a binding contract.