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Local Card Clubs Send Comprehensive Re-Opening Plan to Gov. Newsom

 

BY BRIAN HEWS• May 24, 2020

In March of this year, the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens , as well as all other casinos, closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the closure of the casinos hit the L.A. area hard, costing over 10,000 jobs and millions in tax revenue and philanthropic dollars.

In Hawaiian Gardens alone, the Gardens Casino contributes over $1 million per month, 74% of the city’s revenue; the city of Bell Gardens generates approximately $13 million from their partnership with the Bicycle Hotel & Casino, which is 44% of the General Fund; Commerce City Manager Edgar Cisneros recently told HMG-LCCN that the Commerce Casino generates over $2 million per month for the city.

The casinos also give hundreds of thousands to charities and local service clubs.

Now with Las Vegas casinos fighting to open next month, and with several tribal casinos in California now open, card clubs in L.A. County proposed a 20-page Health and Sanitation program that they hope will enable them to reopen within weeks.

They were forced to take the matter into their own hands; similar to how Trump is handling the pandemic on a national level, the card clubs claim they are seeing no direction from the state.

Haig Kelegian Sr., a part owner of the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens and the Crystal Casino in Compton, said the card clubs drafted their own program because there was no direction from the state on how to reopen.

Six card clubs sent the proposal in: the Gardens Casino, the Bicycle Club in Bell Gardens, the Commerce Casino in Commerce, Hollywood Park, Hustler, and Crystal Casinos.

The plan was developed after consulting “all available information and guidance from the CDC and state and local public health agencies” and in collaboration with medical experts from UCLA and USC.

The program specifies several protocols, all meet or exceed the CDC recommendations for sanitizing including:

 

  • Frequent cleaning and sanitizing of all areas with increased focus on high touch areas including the chairs and gaming tables with those areas wiped with a sanitizing wipe before and after each player sits down.

 

 

  • Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes will be required prior to entering and upon exiting a gaming table and all tables will be wiped when a player exits.

 

  • Signage regarding the proper health precautions reminding everyone to wash/sanitize their hands and practice physical distancing including elevators; markers will designate where to stand when queueing.

 

  • Cards, chips and other gaming equipment will be cleaned and sanitized or disposed of when they are returned from a gaming table and employees will sanitize shared gaming areas on a regular and frequent basis.

 

  • All administrative area will follow the health and sanitizing protocols.

 

  • Physical barriers will be utilized in areas where six feet of social distancing is not feasible. Valet services, transportation services and banquet services have been suspended. Food and beverage services will follow the state’s guidelines for restaurants.

 

  • Finally, all employees will be trained on the mandatory cleaning and sanitizing protocols, on the proper donning, use and disposal of PPE, and how to recognize and report any concerns regarding individuals who may be exhibiting symptoms.

Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda, Chair of the California Cities Gaming Authority, which is a state-chartered Joint Powers Authority formed to advocate for 63 cities state-widewith medium and small licensed card rooms, told HMG-LCCN, “The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closures in March has delivered a body blow to the Cardroom industry statewide and its wake is ravishing the economies of host cities.  Cities are no longer receiving the revenue generated by their Cardrooms which fund critical and vital services in their communities.  In Los Angeles County, the City of Gardena is losing approximately $800,000 in direct revenue from its card room and $10,000 a month in sales tax revenue.  In Inglewood the city is losing $500,000 a month in revenue generated from Hollywood Park Casino.  This money pays for critical paramedic, police, and fire services for residence.  Since the closures began in March the California Cities Gaming Authority has been in communication with the legislature and governor’s office to get our Cardrooms open.  We support the LA Cardrooms proposed Health and Safety Sanitation Program, it will be key in getting our Cardrooms reopened.”

Juan Garza, Bellflower Mayor and executive director of the California Cities for Self Reliance that advocates for L.A. County casinos told HMG-LCCN,  “We have comprehensively reviewed the cardroom’s proposed Health & Safety Sanitation Program and fully support it and its public health-expert developed COVID-19 mitigation elements.  It ensures that employees and customers will be safe, which is paramount, while balancing Cardroom operations.  We look forward to getting both the Governor’s and L.A. County’s approval to re-open ASAP, as these local economic engines support over 10,000 jobs in our cities region.”

Indeed, according to a study by the California Gaming Association, card rooms statewide generated $1.6 billion in wages and benefits and accounted for over 32,000 jobs and over $500 million in state and local taxes.

The CGA estimated that L.A. County card rooms generate over $2 billion in economic benefits and over $70 million in local taxes.

Ivan Altamirano, Mayor of Commerce and the city home to the Commerce Casino, along with Mayor pro tem Oralia Rebollo and Councilmembers Hugo Argumedo, Leonard Mendoza and John Soria sent a letter to Newsom urging the reopening of city card clubs.

“The residents of these cities are primarily people of color, many of whom are essential workers, who rely upon the services provided by their cities. Like these cities, Commerce greatly relies on revenues from the Commerce Casino in order to provide youth programs, feed our seniors and ensure public safety needs are met for all citizens.”

“The health and safety of our employees and guests are of paramount importance,” said Keith Sharp, general counsel for the Gardens Casino. “ That is why, in consultation with medical experts in the field of infectious diseases from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and from USC and Keck School of Medicine, the Gardens Casino, together with the other LA County card rooms, developed a Health and Sanitation Program in anticipation of reopening.  We believe this comprehensive program provides our employees and guests with a high level confidence that we are taking the steps necessary to protect their health and well-being.”

Sharp continued, “Our almost 2,000 employees and their families have been severely impacted by this crisis and the closure of our casino for more than 10 weeks.  Not to mention the hardship to the City of Hawaiian Gardens caused by a complete loss of over $2.5 million in revenue from the casino to date.   With tribal casinos now open and Nevada casinos opening on June 4 we are anxious to open as soon as possible and to have our employees return to work and again provide revenue to our local community which has always been a strong partner.  We fear that if we are not permitted to open very soon some customers will be lost forever.”

 

 

 

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