Outdoor Card Rooms? How the California Gaming Industry is Changing due to COVID-19

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Over the weekend, Stars Casino in Tracy, moved its tables outdoors. Stars Casino became the first card room in California allowed operating outdoors.

The news of reopening cardrooms and casinos came after California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered everyone to stay home for at least a month. Then, a second wave broke out and indoor seating had to close. So, the Stars Casino brought everything outside.

Everything will be placed under tents like table games. Social distancing protocols must be followed and card rooms can still only offer table games as well. No slot machines or video poker is involved.

With the “outside” thinking, the California gaming industry is looking at ways to bring in revenue while the coronavirus keeps casinos and cardrooms closed in different regions throughout the state.

Casinos & Cardrooms

Last month, cardrooms asker Gov. Gavin Newsom to tell tribal casinos to close their doors in the middle of the pandemic. Cases started to spike and cardrooms were closed as the casinos were able to stay open. This was able to happen as tribal casinos do not have to follow the Governor’s executive order.

Health officials in San Diego County were inspecting whether or not a cluster of positive coronavirus cases came from a tribal casino back in May. Many of the casinos in the area opened back up in May, which was earlier than anything else that opened up during this time.

Almost all California casinos reopened back in late spring/early summer with no repercussions. There have been a few reported instances where possible outbreaks were linked to casinos, yet there has been no conclusive evidence.

The cardroom and casino tension is at an all-time high, especially with sports betting off the table for a few more years. Cardrooms must follow Gov. Newsom’s executive orders while casinos are still free to do their own thing. This also costs the cardrooms money, while putting the public at risk at casinos, especially as an outbreak happens in southern California.

Sports Betting in a Pandemic

On June 23, Sen. Bill Dodd pulled his constitutional amendment, SCA 6, from trying to pass a sports betting bill. Now, sports betting in California will most likely have to wait until 2023 before it can become legal when voters can approve of it in 2022.

California tribes were fighting Dodd and Assemblyman Adam Gray hard on the legislature. Tribes have their own idea of sports betting and California lawmakers have theirs. Lawmakers tried to get their bill through Congress, but the coronavirus pandemic slowed them down.

The stay-at-home order placed by Gov. Newsome affected the tribes’ push to get its sports betting bill on the ballot in November. Tribes needed to get over 1 million signatures and verified people by the due date to get on the ballot.

A coalition of California tribes tried to get an extension to get more signatures so no one has to wait until 2022 for sports betting. However, they did find a California judge that would grant them an extension and would have until October 12 to get all the signatures they needed.

Not passing the sports betting bill when they did will most likely help California create a much better bill than before. Mobile betting was not even apart of the original plan.