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L. A. County Order Closes Cardrooms, Devastating Employees & Cities

 

GARDENS CASINO General Counsel Keith Sharp speaks at a news conference this week to voice concerns over the closures mandated by the L.A. County Health Department. The closures will force thousands of layoffs and hit cities, such as Hawaiian Gardens, with a major loss of revenue.

 

BY BRIAN HEWS

Cities, families, and cardrooms are once again reeling due to the L. A. County Department of Health’s order to close card rooms without solid evidence, like that of bars, restaurants, and gyms, that card rooms spread the coronavirus.

Keith Sharp, General Counsel for the Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens told HMG-CN,  “There is no data to support the casinos contributing to transmission.”

The county has been averaging nearly 5,000 cases per day, with the state reaching over one million cases last week.

The LADPH mandated a “Safer at Home” order, limiting non-essential retail to just 20 percent capacity. Large gatherings are banned, except for church services and protests.

The bigger card rooms were operating at a very limited capacity outdoors, investing large sums of money into open tents and other equipment.

Protocols in place at cardrooms are stricter than most businesses and include: Plexiglass installed at six-feet high between each player; no food or drink is allowed at the table at any time; masks must be worn at all times; employee dealers must wear face shields and masks and have a plexiglass barrier between them and the players; sanitizing including each time a player leaves a seat; hand sanitizers and hand washing stations throughout the outdoor area; temperatures  taken before a player or employee can be admitted; and extensive screening including multiple questions conducted of each customer before entering the outdoor facility.

In order to follow all ordinances, the Gardens  transformed their former drive up valet area into an outdoor gaming room, rebuilding an outdoor casino from the sub-flooring, carpet, chairs, tables, equipment, tress work, security cameras, and even air conditioning. “We had to totally think outside the box. Basically everything that was indoors is now outdoors,” said Sharp.

Paper card decks are used in place of the plastic decks, so they can be tossed after each dealer rotation. Chips are sanitized on a regular basis, “it is like a chip dish washer,” said Sharp, ”they are collected and sent to the back of the house and cleaned with a heated sanitizer, so that all chips coming back on the floor are clean.”

“We come through with EPA approved misters, in the middle of the trusses you will see cleaning equipment so that when a player leaves a game, an employee can come in and sanitize the entire area,” added Sharp.

The other larger casinos, Commerce, Bicycle erected similar structures and implemented protocols and, like the Gardens, did not see any evidence of transmission.

But that still was not enough, and cities and employees, who receive revenue from the cardrooms, were hit hard once again.

In August of this year the city of Hawaiian Gardens declared a fiscal emergency, with a letter being sent to Governor Gavin Newsom regarding the Gardens Casino. The City receives more than 70 percent of its revenue from the Casino.

Hawaiian Gardens slashed their budget almost in half and laid off more than 20 percent of the city’s workforce. The City applied for and received federal stimulus funds, cut non-essential and essential services, but with the Gardens closed, the city is losing over $1 million per month.

Along with Sharp, Commerce Mayor Ivan Altamirano, Commerce City Manager Edgar Cisneros, Hawaiian Gardens Mayor Jesse Alvarado,  Hawaiian Gardens City Manager Ernie Hernandez,  Bell Gardens Mayor Alejandra Cortez, and  Bell Gardens City Manager Michael B. O’Kelly also attended.