Los Angeles Card Rooms Want in on Action as Tribal, Vegas Rivals Reopen

Posted on: May 26, 2020, 09:19h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2020, 12:31h.

The six Los Angeles-area card rooms presented county health officials with a 20-page document containing policies and procedures. The document was aimed at convincing politicians the venues are ready to reopen following a more than two-month shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Card Rooms Clamor To Reopen
It’s been awhile since Commerce Casino and other L.A. card rooms were filled, but they’re pushing politicians for a reopening date. (Image: Los Angeles Daily News)

Like all gaming venues in the Golden State, including tribal casinos, the California’s 66 card rooms were shuttered in mid-March. But there’s been little movement on reopening the venues, even as tribal gaming properties across the state are coming back online, and with Nevada casinos expected to reopen on June 4.

Card clubs around the City of Angels are in a tough competitive spot in an extended closure scenario, because many of the tribal casinos in Southern California already reopened, with more expected to join that group in the coming days.

The 20-page list of protocols agreed upon by the six card clubs was presented to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “It includes some proposed changes already adopted by tribal and Las Vegas casinos, such as increasing the distance between players at card tables, cleaning more frequently, and taking the temperatures of gamblers as they enter.”

The L.A.-area card rooms are the Bicycle Hotel and Casino, Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, Hollywood Park, Hustler Casino, and Lucky Lady Casino.

Debate and Criticism

To date, California has 90,631 documented COVID-19 cases and 3,708 deaths – data that compare favorably with New York, which has 199,000 cases and 16,410 fatalities, despite the Golden State being roughly twice the size of the Empire State by population.

Still, the stay-at-home order in place in Los Angeles is drawing criticism for being overly punitive to local businesses, including card clubs. Less than a month after California’s coronavirus shutdown went into effect, mayors of cities that are home to some of the six L.A.-area card clubs wrote to Gov. Gavin Newsom pleading for financial assistance, saying that with the gaming venues closed, general funds and essential services were threatened due to lost revenue.

The second-largest US city is drawing scrutiny for its recent handling of stay-at-home policies, with Mayor Eric Garcetti earning criticism for a decision to fill local skate parks with sand to keep skaters at home and for his call to put county health director Barbara Ferrer in charge of COVID-19 response. Ferrer, who isn’t a medical doctor, previously led the city’s efforts to deal with homelessness, but L.A. still has one of the worst homeless problems in the country.

She said earlier this month the county’s stay-at-home directive could last another three months, while Garcetti implied a full reopening could require a coronavirus vaccine, comments that earned rebuke from the Justice Department, which said L.A.’s shelter-in-place order could soon become “arbitrary and unlawful.”

Vital to Local Economies

The six card rooms developed their health and safety protocols with assistance from medical teams at UCLA and USC. Newsom is expected to announce reopening plans for more gaming venues over the next several weeks, if not sooner.

With California’s unemployment rate flirting with 20 percent, Newsom is saying public employees could endure salary reductions, and the state – home to some of the highest taxes in the country – is asking the federal government for assistance. Thus, reopening card clubs could be a prudent move.

In L.A., there’s no denying the gaming venues are vital to local economies. In Bell Gardens, revenue generated by the Bicycle accounts for 46 percent of the city’s general fund, while the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens covers about two-thirds of that municipality’s general fund.