Los Angeles County card rooms have to close starting Monday as a result of a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the area.
County officials outlined a new “Safer at Home” order on Friday that includes a ban on gatherings with anyone outside of one’s household, except for religious services and protests. The plan also drops the capacity of non-essential retail down to 20%. LA Public Health tweeted out the exact details of this new order for the nation’s most populous county:
The order will last until at least December 20. It will be the third time in 2020 that card rooms have to close as a result of pandemic-related restrictions.
The seven card rooms in LA County – some of the largest in California – employ over 10,000 people. They were finally able to reopen their doors on October 5 following shutdowns for the majority of the preceding six months. Even after reopening, games could only take place in the open air.
Card rooms had been dealing with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide curfew order from November 21 that required the gaming venues to close between 10pm and 5am. A large portion of card room revenue comes after dark.
Many LA County card rooms are in smaller municipalities that depend on gaming tax revenue. For example, Hawaiian Gardens gets about 70% of its tax revenues from The Gardens Casino, which employs almost 2,000 local residents. The city has lost over $10m in revenue so far in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 limitations and shutdowns at the casino. According to Hawaiian Gardens officials, this drop in the city’s funding means potential employee layoffs and cuts to various public programs.
will negatively impact youth and senior programs
The Commerce Casino accounts for about 40% of the city of Commerce’s revenues. The city’s $12m drop in revenue due to card room restrictions will negatively impact youth and senior programs in the city, as well as library services.
Officials from Bell Gardens, home of The Bicycle Hotel & Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, and Commerce are planning to hold a news conference on Monday. They will be calling upon county officials to allow outdoor gaming to continue at the card rooms.
Card rooms initially had to close in the middle of March as the pandemic began to set in in the United States. They briefly returned to action in June at 50% capacity before closing just a few weeks later due to rising case numbers. The LA County card rooms got the go ahead in early October to restart operations, but only outdoors. The venues spent millions of dollars setting up outdoor infrastructure.
As expected, the card rooms put extensive health and safety protocols in place, including temperature checks on everyone before entry, plexiglass between dealers and players, mandatory face masks, and no food or drink at the gaming tables. Every relevant area underwent a cleaning process when a player left a table and there was frequent sanitization of chips and cards.