Gaming entities have had to get creative in order to survive in the COVID-19 age, and Stars Casino in Tracy is the latest example.
The cardroom has reopened outdoors, becoming the first California cardroom to do so. Stars has closed twice since COVID-19 hit the US — once in March, and again in July.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down indoor entertainment venues for a second time as cases surged last month.
Stars executives worked with the Newsom administration to find a workable solution, and so we have outdoor gaming.
What to expect at outdoor Stars Casino offering
Guests must wear a mask at all times and have their temperature taken upon entry. Stars typically has anywhere from 30 to 40 customers at a time, but that number will be reduced to about 12 for the foreseeable future.
The cardroom also plans to enforce social distancing measures, with a maximum of three or four players at a table. Capacity was previously eight.
Table games will be played under tents. There are no slot machines at California cardrooms, so those don’t need to be accounted for. Several hand-cleaning stations will also be available throughout the space.
“Emphasize really, not on the profits, but on the safety and security of everyone that enters the premises,” CEO Emmanuel Macalino said. “I emphasized to my team that in making that a priority, then the business will happen naturally.”
Carol Lussier, a longtime card dealer at Stars, praised the casino’s safety efforts.
“I think with all the protocols that we have, I feel very safe here. I feel safer than I do when I go to the supermarket,” Lussier said. Due to her age, Lussier is considered to be at high risk for COVID-19.
It will be fascinating to monitor the foot traffic here, as it’s extremely hot in Southern California at this time of year. This weekend in Tracy, for instance, temperatures could reach 110 degrees.
“We also have to deal with the weather as you can see it’s pretty toasty out here, and we put up the shades, and we still need to allow the airflow,” Macalino said.
California economy reeling
While one outdoor cardroom isn’t going to fix the state’s economy, it’s a step in the right direction. Cardrooms account for 32,000 jobs in California, and the Golden State’s unemployment rate was 14.9% as of June.
The industry drives an estimated $1.64 billion in economic activity, and updated unemployment rates will be released on Aug. 21.
Most employees at Stars haven’t consistently worked in several months, and the outdoor reopening allows them to do so. California has the largest economy in the US and the fifth-largest economy in the world.
California ‘turning a corner’ per Newsom
The state was really struggling with COVID-19 in July. On July 21, hospitalizations peaked at 7,000 patients. But as of Tuesday, California had 5,549 active hospitalizations.
“These are specific proof points that connect to some optimism that what we’re doing as a state … that what you are doing is working,” Newsom said. “We want to continue to see these numbers go down.”
What does that mean for cardrooms and indoor entertainment venues? On one hand, the decline in cases and hospitalizations is obviously good news. On the other, Newsom’s quote doesn’t make it seem as though he’s eager to reopen indoor spaces any time soon.
In fact, Stars going all in on an outdoor cardroom likely means it’s here to stay for a reasonably long time.
We’ll see if any other cardrooms follow Stars’ lead.