Stars Casino Restores Gaming Operations With Outside Thinking, Literally

Posted on: August 8, 2020, 12:20h. 

Last updated on: August 10, 2020, 12:34h.

Stars Casino, a card room in Tracy, Calif., is bringing back gaming by moving the tables outside, a plan that went into effect today at noon local time.

Stars Casino Moves Tables Outside
After working with local and state leaders, including Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, Stars Casino in Tracy, Calif. is reopening with outdoor gaming. (Image: Los Angeles Times)

News of the reopening comes more than a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a directive forcing a second round of closures of indoor businesses, including card rooms, in 19 counties. San Joaquin County, home to Stars Casino, was one of the 19 regions affected by that order.

Card rooms across the state temporarily closed for the first time this year in March That sparked concerns about job loss and crimped revenue in the municipalities in which the venues operate. The gaming properties reopened in June, but only for a brief period before Newsom ordered indoor entertainment venues closed again amid a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

The outdoor gaming operations will allow the local cardroom to restore the jobs of its employees, most of whom have not been working the past several months, as the cardroom remained closed,” according to a statement issued by Stars.

Table games will be placed under tents, with social distancing protocols enforced. California cardrooms only offer table games and do not feature slot machines or video poker.

A Thaw in Relations?

Executives from Stars say they worked with San Joaquin County officials, Newsom’s administration, as well as the Attorney General’s office on the plan to bring back gaming outside.

The casino’s unique plan to get employees back to work and gamblers back to the tables comes about three weeks after the California Gaming Association (CGA) — the industry group for Golden State card rooms — implored Newsom to consider closing tribal casinos. The CGA argued that although tribal operators have sovereign status, the governor has the authority to force the closure of those venues in a public health crisis.

In the Golden State, card room and tribal operators have long had a contentious relationship, with many feeling Attorney General Xavier Becerra favors the tribes and their deep pockets over cardrooms. On that note, it could be seen a step in the right direction for the cardrooms that Becerra’s office was involved in Stars’ outdoor plan.

In the state, the Attorney General’s office has jurisdiction over the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC), the regulatory body for the state’s gaming operators.

State Could Use the Help

While Stars is just one casino, California’s ailing economy could use the help of cardrooms. The industry accounts for more than 32,000 jobs across the state, driving an estimated $1.64 billion in annual economic activity and $500 million in revenue for state and local coffers.

Home to the largest state economy in the country and the fifth-largest in the world, California is also saddled with high unemployment — 11.1 percent in June. Additionally, 57 percent of those filing for jobless benefits there are doing so for a second time since the March coronavirus shutdown.