What Gambling Looks Like In The Age Of Coronavirus

As we reported last weekend, a card room just outside the Bay Area has become the first in the state to reopen for gaming. 

Welcome to Stars Casino in Tracy, where guests get a temperature check and a mask as they enter through the back patio. The outdoor casino floor consists of blackjack, Bacharach and three-card poker tables.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, seating capacity has been cut in half.

"Normally, you would see eight players on a table, but as you can see there are only four," Stars COO Emmanuel Macalino told KCBS Radio.

A dealer shuffles cards at a socially-distanced table at Stars Casino in Tracy.
Matt Bigler/KCBS Radio

The seats are also disinfected as soon as guests leave the table, and chips, cards and cash are stored under disinfecting ultraviolet lights.

"They’re actually proven to mitigate the coronavirus that may be on the cards or the chips," Casino CEO Joseph Melech explained.

Melech said the changes cost them tens of thousands of dollars to abide by state and county safety guidelines, but he's hoping it will help the business survive the pandemic.

"Well, if everything stays safe here and the county and state governments are okay with us staying open, I think we’re going to be okay," he said.

The guests seem to enjoy it.

"It’s okay," one player said. "I just wanted to check it out."

"It’s good to have an option and if it’s safe, (with) safety protocols, then I feel comfortable doing it," another player added.

The casino bought industrial-size fans to keep players cool.

Melech said they are getting calls from card rooms across the state and the country asking about how they can double down on pandemic precautions.