Two of the most populous regions of California have been shut down again by a law passed on Sunday. This has, once again, closed all the cardrooms in the affected areas.
The law requires any area with an Intensive Care Unit capacity of less than 15% to conduct an immediate shutdown of 3 weeks minimum. The regions must then extend the shutdown in one-week chunks until their I.C.U. capacity rises back above 15%.
The Southern California and Joaquin Valley regions were already at 12.5% and 8.6% respectively. So at midnight on Sunday stay-at-home orders came into effect. The two regions are home to 27 million people, around three-quarters of the state’s population.
The Bay Area has also opted to instate the same measures despite being at 21.2% capacity. Chris Farnitano, the Contra Costa Health Director explained, “I don’t think we can wait for the state’s new restrictions to go into effect later this month. We must act swiftly to save as many lives as we can. This is an emergency.”
Folding cards, and businesses
More importantly for our purposes, the affected regions also house the majority of California’s poker rooms. Southern California alone includes the city of Los Angeles. With that comes the poker rooms at the Bike, the Hustler, the Commerce, the Gardens, Hollywood Park, and Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino. These sites have all had to get the mothballs back out.
These restrictions do not bind Native American Reservations, and so any reservation casinos will be able to make their own decision about following suit. However, as the stay-at-home orders ban travel for non-essential reasons, the reservations may end up opting to close. Otherwise, they’ll find themselves paying to keep the lights on when no one can drop by.
As well as casinos and movement, other things that have been shut down in the affected areas include bars, wineries, museums, cinemas, amusement parks, and indoor recreation facilities like gyms and arcades.
It wasn’t that long ago that cautious measures were being floated to re-introduce poker back into that Cali lifestyle. In October they moved the poker tables outside for a spell as a healthy alternative to breathing indoors. Now those gains have been erased.
Another shutdown further agitates worries about how the virus is impacting poker in general. San Diego’s Pala casino already switched its poker room out for a more profitable “Asian themed” table game room.
No one has quite figured out how to counter the economic impact of vital — in the most literal sense of that word — shutdowns like this. And until they do, or widespread vaccination is available, live poker is increasingly looking like it may simply have to be part of the price we pay to save lives. A price we regret, but can hardly resent.
Featured image source: Flickr