San Jose's ingenious plan to reopen poker rooms

Jon Pill
Posted on: September 04, 2020 07:37 PDT

San Jose is looking at reopening its two Casinos al fresco in the coming weeks. The Casino M8trix andBay 101 are important tourist traps for the city. The Bay 101 in particular is a poker hub. And it serves — in non-plague years — as a stop on the World Poker Tour.

The initiative follows the August 28th “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” which further loosened lockdown regulations in CA.

The idea is that San Jose’s casinos would be able to put up a series of circus tents. In the shade of these coverings, they can put on their usual offerings of slots, table games, and poker.

Do you know the way to San Jose?

The initiative is part of a general push by San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo to get the hospitality and restaurant sector back up and running. Half of all the city's restaurant workers are unemployed right now.

To this end, Liccardo is allowing businesses to use public spaces rent-free.

Liccardo said, “We recognize that in a city with 300 days of sunshine a year we have a unique opportunity to offer a plan for greater resilience to the coronavirus challenge that is facing every single small business owner in our city and throughout the country right now.”

That plan now looks to be extending from small business owners to the rather larger business owners of the casino industry.

The gamble of reopening casinos

This tentative reopening comes with some calculated risks.

Casinos would still have to follow the CDC’s guidance on casino operations. That said, the restrictions specifically mentioned in the San Jose Spotlight’s article that announced the initiative might not be sufficient for infection-free gaming.

The Spotlight refers to Bay 101 Vice president Ron Werner saying that "there will likely be restrictions on the number of players, glass shields between players and dealers, cleaning requirements, and face mask requirements.”

But it should be noted that not all the CDC recommendations are created equal.

For example, the CDC class all “Games that require a dealer and that allow multiple players at the same time” as being in the “Even More Risk” column of their “Considerations for Casinos and Gaming Operations” article.

Why open them?

ProPublica's recent report on the effect of reopening Vegas casinos flags up some of these risks. Vegas has become a “hotbed for the spread of the novel coronavirus,” they say. And “if tourists return home and then test positive for COVID-19, the limitations of contact tracing in the midst of a pandemic make it unlikely such an outbreak would be identified.”

But with the economy in crisis and the executive branch largely checked out of the USA’s COVID response, it is down to state and city leaders to make these decisions.

The result has been a patchwork approach in the US. Some businesses open up and serve to keep the coronavirus infection rate at a steady boil. Others take the brunt of the economic impact by staying shuttered.

The hermits serve to protect their workers at the cost of their livelihoods. So understandably, local leaders would much rather everyone else's constituents stayed home, while their voters get back to earning.

And in this way, the U.S. COVID death-per-million stat reached 10th highest in the world, putting it on a par with Brazil.

In these circumstances, reopening his city must be tempting to Mayor Liccardo. Let someone else take on the burden of locking down.

Putting poker on the streets instead of indoors should help. And strict regulation will mitigate some of the risks. But in a city that is home to Silicon Valley, one can’t help but wonder if there are bigger fish to get back in the pan.