San Manuel Casino Introduces ‘Mystery Card’ Roulette To Safely Offer Table Games

Written By Derek Helling on September 1, 2020 - Last Updated on September 12, 2020

One of the things that gamblers probably never thought they would see is a version of roulette without a ball. That’s exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought in a new San Manuel Casino roulette version.

Mystery cards replace the ball on the wheel to reduce contact between employees and guests. That isn’t the only alteration the casino has made in the interest of safety, however.

Details on San Manuel Casino roulette and other table games

The tribal casino in Highland, CA, brought back table games on Aug. 19. In addition to replacing the ball with cards inserted in each slot of the wheel, the roulette game currently offered is limited to just two players at a time.

The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians reopened the casino in June with slots only. The gaming facility just 60 miles outside of Los Angeles also erected plexiglass barriers between the dealer and players at its roulette tables.

With those precautions in place, the casino is now running 95 of its over 130 gaming tables. Not all of those are for roulette, however. The casino also offers the following on a limited basis:

  • Blackjack
  • Fortune pai gow
  • Four-card poker
  • Three-card poker
  • Texas hold’em 

At all tables, regardless of which game they correspond to, players will see the same barriers and two-person limit. At poker tables, players no longer touch the cards and fresh chips are cycled throughout the day.

Whether casino guests choose to try their luck at those table games or not, there are universal protections in place. Right now, those include:

  • Mandatory wearing of face masks
  • Smoking limited to designated areas outside of the casino
  • Alcohol service at slots and table games only
  • Mandatory health screenings will be conducted upon entry
  • Maximum capacity of 2,600
  • Available slots reduced to 2,391

San Manuel isn’t the only gaming property in the state trying to operate at the greatest capacity possible while protecting its workforce right now, however. Other California cardrooms and tribal casinos are going to great lengths to do the same.

Other mitigation efforts by California gambling properties

While the chances of reopening California cardrooms now depend on local COVID-19 testing numbers, some of those operators aren’t content to leave their fortunes up to those odds.

At least two have shifted to an outdoor setting to allow them to reopen.

Most tribal casinos in the state are operating at reduced capacities. Additionally, the new county-by-county rules may create a patchwork of California cardrooms that can open in the near future.

The vast difference that enables most tribal casinos to operate while most cardrooms are closed is who is in charge of both situations. Tribal casinos sit on tribes’ sovereign land and their gaming compacts govern their operation.

Cardrooms, on the other hand, are subject to state authorities. Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered cardrooms closed for a second time in mid-July, after allowing them to reopen with restrictions about three weeks earlier.

When they do start to reopen, cardroom guests should expect to see many of the same safety measures that San Manuel currently operates with.

These are peculiar times for California gambling companies, but they’re doing their best to stay open despite the unpredictable circumstances.

Photo by Getty
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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