Live poker in the US: reopening update

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: August 26, 2020 17:50 PDT

Some states still hesitant to let live poker rooms resume business

Most of the more than 1,000 full-scale casinos in the US are back in business. The COVID-19 crisis led to nationwide shutdowns of retail casinos, all of which were forced to cease operations for weeks.

Michigan's casinos were among the last to reopen, doing so on August 5. While most of the casino gaming floors are up and running across the US, live poker rooms still remain shuttered in some states.

Here's a look at the status of live poker in five of the biggest states for the live poker economy:


Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak gave the green light for state casinos to reopen June 4. The governor didn't place any restrictions on live poker rooms reopening along with other gaming areas.

The Venetian struck fast with its poker room reopening plans, resuming poker operations June 5. Bellagio and Caesars Palace reopened poker rooms on June 18, while the Aria poker room reopened July 1.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board restricted live poker rooms to allow a maximum of four players per table for a time. As of late August, however, Nevada poker rooms can run eight-handed games, and most Las Vegas poker rooms are back up and running.

The pandemic has taken its toll on the Las Vegas live poker scene, however, as poker rooms at Harrah's and the Mirage shut down for good.

New Jersey

Atlantic City casinos reopened July 2, but live poker rooms have yet to come back in one of the biggest poker states in the US. Borgata, which offers the state's biggest poker room, displays a message on its website that its popular poker venue is still closed.

"Borgata has temporarily suspended operations of the Poker Room for the good of its guests, employees, and communities. We will reopen as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so," reads the message.

Websites for Tropicana, Golden Nugget, and Bally's display similar messages, and a call to Harrah's Atlantic City confirmed that its poker room is still closed as well.

All live poker rooms in Atlantic City remain shut down for now, with no indication as to when that might change.


Pennsylvania rolled out a phased reopening plan for state casinos. All 12 Pennsylvania casinos reopened between June 9 and July 7, but guidelines instituted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board didn't allow live poker rooms to resume business alongside the casino reopenings.

The live poker landscape in Pennsylvania includes poker rooms at 10 of those 12 casinos. Some of the state's most popular venues include Parx Casino, Rivers Philadelphia, and Harrah's Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania players must still turn to online poker for now, as no announcement has come yet regarding the status of the state's live poker rooms.


Michigan's commercial casinos endured the longest shutdown period of any state with legal casinos. After nearly five months closed, the state's trio of Detroit-based commercial casinos reopened August 5.

Guidelines from the Michigan Gaming Control Board, however, specifically mandated that live poker rooms at the three casinos must remain closed. No timeline is set for when that might change for the poker rooms at MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Greektown Casino.

Several tribal properties throughout the state offer live poker, but as of now none of Michigan's tribal casinos have reopened their poker rooms.


The status of California's live poker rooms has been a rollercoaster ride for players in the Golden State. Poker rooms and casinos shut down, along with other casinos nationwide, in mid-March.

Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light for casinos to reopen in mid-June. Just two weeks later, however, Newsom reordered casinos and poker rooms in the state to close, citing rising COVID-19 numbers as the cause.

California's live poker rooms include three of the largest rooms in the world, in the form of Los Angeles-area venues like Commerce Casino, Bicycle Casino, and Gardens Casinos. All three remain shuttered for now, with no indication as to when the bustling California poker economy might be back in business.