The latest on live poker in the U.S. as of Feb. 18
COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the U.S. casino industry, with live poker rooms affected more than any other area of casino gaming.
With rooms full of dealers and players handling the same chips and cards, live poker venues in many states were the last area of the casino floor allowed to reopen according to COVID-19 emergency orders.
Some states still haven’t given the green light for live poker to return, while others go back and forth on allowing poker rooms to operate.
Here’s a look at the status of live poker rooms in some of the biggest poker states in the U.S.:
Status of U.S. live poker rooms at a glance
|State||Are live poker rooms open?||Notable open poker rooms||Notable closed poker rooms|
|Nevada||Yes||Venetian, Wynn, Aria, Orleans, South Point, Resorts World, Bellagio||Green Valley Ranch, Sam’s Town|
|California||Yes||Commerce, Bicycle, Gardens, Thunder Valley, Oceans 11||Bay 101, Oaks Card Club|
|New Jersey||Yes||Borgata, Harrah’s||Golden Nugget, Tropicana, Bally’s|
|Pennsylvania||Yes||Parx, Live! Casino Philadelphia, Rivers Philadelphia, Rivers Pittsburgh||Hollywood Casino Penn National, Wind Creek Bethlehem|
|Michigan||Yes||MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino, Odawa Casino||MotorCity Casino, FireKeepers, Gun Lake, Soaring Eagle|
|Florida||Yes||Almost all poker rooms open in the state||N/A|
No U.S. state has experienced the same level of back-and-forth stance on live poker as California over the past 11 months. California stands as one of the country’s biggest live poker hubs, with more than 60 standalone commercial cardrooms.
In addition to the commercial cardrooms, more than 60 tribal casinos operate in California, with many of those properties offering live poker.
The complexity of California’s poker scene, along with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s back-and-forth stance on COVID-19 shutdowns, make The Golden State’s live poker economy difficult to predict in the pandemic era.
All casinos in the U.S. shut down in mid-March, as the gravity of the pandemic became apparent on American shores. Commercial cardrooms were allowed to reopen in mid-June.
Most of the state’s cardrooms had to shutter again just two weeks later in response to another COVID-19 emergency order from Newsom. That order covered most of California’s counties, affecting Los Angeles venues like the Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Bell Gardens.
Newsom issued a statewide reversal of non-essential business shutdowns in late January, and many of the state’s poker rooms are now back in action. With some COVID-19 restrictions still in place, commercial poker rooms have adapted with outdoor setups.
Amid the back-and-forth COVID closures, tribal casinos remained open. Tribal properties aren’t obliged to follow state-issued emergency orders, and many tribal poker rooms have been open uninterrupted for months.
As of mid-February, poker players have plenty of live poker options in California. You can play outdoors at a commercial cardroom, or inside at one of the tribal casinos.
Nevada allowed casinos to reopen live poker rooms in June. Save for the standard plexiglass partitions and increased sanitation protocols, the Las Vegas live poker scene represents the closest thing to “normal” as far as live poker goes in the COVID-19 era.
Las Vegas has hosted several major tournament series in the past six months, with the Venetian and the Wynn standing as the two biggest live poker hubs on the Strip.
Like Nevada, Florida plays host to a live poker scene that somewhat resembles life before the pandemic. Florida serves as the major live tournament hub of the east coast.
Bestbet Jacksonville, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, and Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood have all produced big live tournament festivals in recent months. Florida’s relaxed stance on COVID-19 business shutdowns should keep the Sunshine State in the mix as one of the biggest live poker hubs in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
Michigan commercial casinos experienced one of the longest shutdown periods of any state. State-issued COVID-19 emergency orders kept the state’s trio of Detroit-area commercial properties closed from mid-March through the first week of August.
Live poker rooms didn’t come back when the casinos reopened, however. After another month-long shutdown in November and December, the Detroit casinos reopened again just as 2020 ended.
After 10 months shuttered, commercial casino poker rooms got approval to reopen in mid-January. As of Feb. 18, MGM Grand Detroit and Greektown Casino-Hotel have both resumed live poker operations.
MotorCity Casino Hotel, the third Detroit commercial property, hasn’t reopened its poker room yet.
Many of Michigan’s 23 tribal casinos offer live poker, and those properties don’t have to abide by the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders. Odawa Casino (located in Petoskey) is currently the only tribal casino with an open poker room as of this writing.
After a seven-month shutdown, live poker rooms in Pennsylvania were allowed to reopen in October. The latter two weeks of the month saw a pair of poker rooms reopen on Oct. 16, followed by two more the next weekend.
As of this writing, poker rooms open in eastern Pennsylvania include Mohegan Sun Pocono, Mount Airy Casino, Parx Casino, and Rivers Philadelphia. Rivers Pittsburgh is the only live poker room open on the western side of the state.
Like Pennsylvania, live poker rooms were the last part of the casino gaming area allowed to resume business after the lifting of COVID-19 emergency orders. While Atlantic City casinos got authorization to reopen for July 4 weekend, poker rooms remained closed long after that.
New Jersey’s largest poker room, at Borgata, reopened in late October. Harrah’s Atlantic City became the second Atlantic City poker venue to resume business, doing so on Dec. 26.
As of mid-February, these two poker rooms are the only ones open to players in New Jersey. Live poker venues at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, Tropicana, and Bally’s remain shuttered.
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