Will future coronavirus restrictions in U.S. hurt the live poker scene?

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 11/21/2020

With COVID-19 cases rising in the U.S., future restrictions around the country may have an impact on live poker. And that impact might be poker room closures yet again if the virus doesn’t get under control.

Back in March, the entire live poker scene in America went into hibernation. Every casino around the country closed down for more than a month. Not a single hand of poker was spread at any land-based casino across the country for around 45 days.

Many felt the game of poker wouldn’t survive the global health pandemic. But poker bounced back nicely with card rooms all across the country slowly beginning the reopened starting in May and still to this day. Atlantic City’s popular Borgata poker room reopened recently and Las Vegas now has 20 places to play poker. So, the industry is back in business.

All that positivity could soon come to an end if the U.S. doesn’t get its COVID-19 problem under control, however. In the United States, more than 11.5 million people since January have tested positive for the coronavirus. Among those individuals, 253,000 have died from the virus. And, even worse for the North American country, there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. Cases are hitting record highs in most states and the current president, Donald Trump, doesn’t seem interested in doing anything to slow the spread.

Many Republican governors, in states such as Iowa and South Dakota, have also refused to impose mask mandates or even encourage social distancing. As a result, the virus continues to spread at alarming rates all across the country.

Poker hot spots in jeopardy

The current state of affairs in the U.S. may harm the live poker scene. If businesses are forced to close down again, that means casinos will be among the first to go, which also means poker players won’t have a place to play cards. In Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) recently threatened the possibility of business closures. He gave his state two weeks to get COVID-19 under control, and says if numbers continue to rise, he may be forced to take action.

Nevada has more card rooms than anywhere else in the country, with 31 just in Las Vegas (20 of which are currently open). Across the border in California, poker rooms remain open but only outdoors, per state health restrictions. Governor Gavin Newsom (D), like Sisolak, has threatened additional closures in his state if COVID-19 cases don’t start dropping. With poker not being considered a necessity, suffice it to say card rooms will be one of the first businesses to shut down again.

Governors in many other states have begun rolling out new restrictions or threatening to close businesses again. With COVID-19 out of control in the U.S., poker room operators are left wondering if they’ll soon be forced to shut it down for the second time this year.

President-Elect Joe Biden has publicly hinted at the possibility of encouraging a nationwide lockdown. He enters office in two months and will replace Trump, who publicly downplayed the virus while admitting privately to journalist Bob Woodward that he considers it to be a serious issue.

Featured image source: Flickr