Card clubs in Los Angeles reopen for outdoor gaming
Source: Los Angeles Times
Card clubs in Los Angeles reopened with health precautions, drawing a stream of gamblers and prompting expressions of relief from city leaders who have struggled without the key source of tax revenue.
The county’s Board of Supervisors and Department of Public Health gave the county’s seven card clubs the green light to welcome customers back — but only in outdoor settings, with players and employees wearing masks and with barriers separating gamblers who are less than six feet apart, among other restrictions.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the card rooms employed more than 10,000 workers and generated as much as 70% of the tax base for the small, working-class communities where they are located.
Some of the clubs are still in the midst of reopening and calling back previously furloughed employees so it is difficult to estimate how many workers will be brought back under the new guidelines.
“Without the casinos, our lifeline, we are looking at more actions at the beginning of the year,” said Edgar Cisneros, the city manager, adding that he hopes to rehire all of the city’s furloughed workers and reinstate the regular salaries once the casino is in full operation. “We are optimistic we will be able to recoup those revenues but also put people back to work.”
“It’s a baby step toward opening kind of gradually, like restaurants,” said John Griffo, director of business development at the Commerce Casino.
Griffo and other casino operators vowed to take the health precautions seriously so they can stay open. They want to avoid a repeat of what happened in June: The county’s card clubs and some other indoor businesses opened for the first time since March, but after 10 days, the state — alarmed by a surge in coronavirus cases in the region — ordered them to shut again.
The Commerce Casino operated about 60 gaming tables in two tented areas — one that was previously used for parking and one where an outdoor smoking area had been. Before the pandemic, the casino operated 277 tables.
Under the new county protocols, all gamblers and casino employees must wear masks at all times except when eating or drinking in designated areas, and must undergo screening for chills, fever and coughing before entering the outdoor tented area; no food or drink is allowed at the gambling tables; and no spectators are allowed to stand behind the players.
The number of players at each gambling table must be limited “such that patrons and employees are able to maintain physical distancing of at least six feet at all times,” and if not, physical barriers such as plexiglass sheets must be installed, according to the county’s protocols. At the Commerce Casino, a maximum of eight players are allowed to play poker at the same table, with fewer players allowed at tables for games such as pai gow and baccarat.
If three or more employees at a casino are infected with the coronavirus in the span of 14 days, the casino must notify the county Department of Public Health.
Compliance is to be monitored by county health officials as well as state gambling regulators.