'Chaotic' but 'fun': Las Vegas casino workers cast votes

Andrew MARSZAL
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Workers at Las Vegas's luxurious Bellagio Hotel check in before taking part in the Democratic presidential caucus on February 22, 2020, an exercise they described as 'chaotic' but 'fun'

Workers at Las Vegas's luxurious Bellagio Hotel check in before taking part in the Democratic presidential caucus on February 22, 2020, an exercise they described as 'chaotic' but 'fun' (AFP Photo/FREDERIC J. BROWN)

Las Vegas (AFP) - The gambling never stops in Las Vegas.

But for a few hours Saturday, the world-famous casinos' croupiers, maids and cooks were given an extended break from their shifts in order to cast votes in Nevada's key Democratic nomination exercise.

At the luxurious Bellagio Hotel -- the largest of seven caucus sites on the renowned Las Vegas Strip -- more than 120 workers filed into a large ballroom decorated with ornate golden chandeliers, converted for the day.

Laura Flores, a maid, had been given an extra hour off at lunch to vote, and was still undecided whom to choose.

"It's fun! I'm going to see what people say inside," she said, signing in at a crowded registration desk.

The caucus process allows attendees to re-cast their votes if their first candidate falls short of a threshold -- meaning it can take hours.

"I don't know what's gonna happen," said Flores. "Hopefully it will be quick."

- 'Just seems chaotic' -

Nevada's caucus system -- requiring a greater investment in time than a simple secret vote, as in most other states -- has not been welcomed by all of the Strip's busy employees.

"It just seems chaotic and ridiculous -- it would be so much easier if we just had a primary," said Bellagio floral designer Anne Olah, 52.

The "Strip caucuses" were introduced to tackle the unusual challenges posed by the city’s 24-hour economy. Anyone working a shift within 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of a Strip caucus site during the vote is eligible to attend.

Early voting was also introduced this year. Almost 75,000 voters picked candidates earlier in the week.

Keen to avoid the embarrassment of the Iowa caucus, which relied on a flawed computer app to relay results, Nevada has pivoted to a "very, very low-tech" system, Jon Summers, senior advisor to the Nevada Democratic Party, told AFP.

Attendance is tallied manually. Officials will telephone in results from each location, backed up with photographs of the paper count sheets.

The party distributed iPads for caucus workers to add the early votes to those voting in person at caucus sites, and to calculate the minimum total votes a candidate needs to remain "viable."

"I'm going to go to Elizabeth (Warren) first -- if I have to change I'm going to go to Tom (Steyer). But blue no matter who," said Olah, referring to the color associated with Democrats.

"It's my responsibility; I need to do this so that's how I look at it. It's like jury duty."