After Long COVID-19 Closures, LA Cardrooms Reopen

Written By Kate Rowland on June 20, 2020 - Last Updated on September 13, 2022

Five Los Angeles-area cardrooms received authorization to reopen Friday.

Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hustler Casino, and Gardens Casino opened their doors Friday morning.

Hollywood Park Casino announced plans to reopen Monday, June 22.

Major Los Angeles-area poker rooms were kept waiting for reopening timelines after smaller venues were allowed to reopen earlier this month.

All operational cardrooms in the state closed voluntarily in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since June 12, most nonessential businesses have reopened in accordance with guidelines issued by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Cardrooms in Phase 3 of CA reopening plan

Gov. Newsom’s office outlined a four-stage reopening strategy.

Phase 1 represents stay-at-home restrictions in full, while Phase 4 denotes the end of all restrictions.

The second phase outlines the reopening of businesses that pose a lower risk for transmission of the coronavirus. Phase 3 represents businesses with a higher risk.

Cardrooms were included in the state’s Phase 3 strategy, along with dine-in restaurants, bars, movie theaters, hair and nail salons, and tattoo parlors.

So far, 51 of the state’s 58 counties have entered Phase 3 status, with many nonessential businesses, including cardrooms, now authorized to reopen.

Of the seven counties that have not yet received Phase 3 approval, six are located in the Bay Area. Imperial County in the southeast corner of the state rounds out the list.

Los Angeles County was included in the June 12 Phase 3 plan. However, larger cardrooms remained shuttered until today.

Cardrooms have different standards to meet across CA

California cardrooms vary widely from one another.

Ranging in size from one to nearly 200 tables, California cardrooms have different operating policies, physical lay-outs, and staffing requirements.

The California Gambling Control Commission worked with multiple state agencies, including the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), to develop a reopening strategy for cardrooms and casinos.

However, the commission’s guidelines did not issue a sweeping, one-size-fits-all reopening strategy for all cardrooms.

In order to receive authorization to reopen, each cardroom must meet the following conditions:

  • The county in which the cardroom resides has provided certification that it has met criteria set forth by the CDPH
  • The state approves the county’s application
  • The cardroom’s written safety plan meets county public health standards

CDPH criteria are based on the following:

  • Number of local COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people
  • Responsiveness and availability of local hospitals to handle a potential health care surge
  • Vulnerable population numbers
  • Demonstrable ability to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing
  • Demonstrable ability to conduct COVID-19 testing

Cardrooms located in areas with high infection rates are expected to have a more difficult time meeting transmission rate criteria.

On the whole, cardrooms will look very different when they do reopen.

Safety plans will be as diverse as the cardrooms themselves. Social distancing requirements will also leave tables shorthanded.

Commerce Casino, the world’s largest poker venue, will limit tables to eight players. Players must wear face masks.

Cardrooms are major contributors to local economy

Cardroom closures in the Los Angeles area alone led to the loss of more than 10,000 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Statewide, cardrooms employ over 32,000 people and contribute $1.6 billion in wages and benefits to the state economy, according to the California Gaming Association.

In addition, California cardrooms contribute $500 million in state and local taxes, as well as economic benefits of more than $2 billion.

With Phase 3 businesses reopening on June 12, California reached new milestones in coronavirus statistics over the weekend.

More than 151,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 5,000 have died, according to a June 15 update from CDPH.

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