While many major casinos have been shuttered due to the coronavirus, some creative California cardrooms have come up with a solution: 24/7 gambling in the great outdoors.
Pop Up Card Tents
After the coronavirus forced the closure of non-essential businesses in California, the casino industry suffered massive losses. However, tribal casinos are not under the jurisdiction of the state, so they continued operating despite opposition from California’s cardrooms.
After Gov. Gavin Newsom eased the restrictions on California businesses, many reopened for business. But after a recent spike in the COVID numbers, Gov. Newsom implemented another round of closures in 19 counties.
Established in 1916, Artichoke Joe’s Casino is one of the oldest cardrooms in California. Joe’s is located south of San Francisco in San Mateo County, and was forced to close. But Joe’s came up with a creative idea: an open-air casino in their parking lot. They erected a 13,000-square-foot canopy with open sides and 32 card tables.
“We call it our open-air casino,” Artichoke Joe’s Casino President Vince DeFriese said. “We brought our gaming operations out into this tent.”
Customers can play baccarat, blackjack, and pai gow 24 hours a day, and food is available from 7 a.m. To 3 a.m. However, it is not currently possible to play Texas hold’em.
“We’re going to bring poker back,” DeFriese said. “We’re still trying to figure out a way to properly social distance. It’s a challenge with that game.”
The Winds of Change
Artichoke Joe’s in San Bruno and the Stars Casino in Tracy are now operating solely outdoors, and 400 staff members at Joe’s are happy to be back to work. Many of these people have been out of work since the initial lockdown, and working in the open air is a breath of fresh air – and income.
But California wildfires continue to burn every fire season due to prolonged drought conditions, and the air quality is anything but fresh. Smoke from wildfires raging for weeks or months leave smoke clouds over many counties in the state. Almost 400,000 acres of land have burned during the current fire season, and the open air casinos are catching a whiff of smoke.
According to the EPA’s AirNow website, air conditions for San Mateo County (and Artichoke Joe’s) are “unhealthy,” and “moderate” for Stars in San Joaquin County. Thousands of acres of burning brush and timber spew huge smoke clouds over large parts of California, and people can smell the smoke as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada.
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