Mayors Urge LA County to Allow Outdoor Card Room Operations

Mayors of 5 cities in Los Angeles areas which have card room casinos gathered Monday, September 14, to request Los Angeles County officials to allow card room operations outdoors. Following a recent decision by the San Jose City Council which agreed to allow casinos to expand their operations into their private parking lots, mayors held a virtual meeting to urge the Council to restore the business that is among the top cities’ revenue contributor.

Approval for outdoor card room operations has been granted by the state, yet Los Angeles County has not allowed casinos to resume outdoor, depriving cities of a big chunk of revenue, in some cases more than half of the general fund.

Mayors Expressed Financial and Social Concerns

Mayor Jesse Alvarado, Hawaiian Gardens, noted 70% of the city’s funding comes from tax revenue generated by The Gardens Casino, which had to reduce its staff to 2,000 employees and cause a further tax revenue loss for the city. The city had to reduce or eliminate services affecting youth and seniors, to reflect on the serious underfunding.

Mayor of Bell Gardens, Alejandra Cortez, outlined that The Bicycle Casino accounts typically for 50% of the city’s budget, and that due to the closure of card rooms, the city already lost $8 million in tax revenue. Similarly, Gardena lost $4.9 million according to its Mayor Tasha Cerda. Councilman John Soria pointed out The Commerce Casino in Commerce accounts for roughly 40% of the city revenue and employs 2,000 people.

Health Officials Want to Exercise Caution

Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer did not delve into details as to why card room operations in the open are not allowed despite the state approval. Instead, she noted there would be no decision until the end of September so that the impact data after Labour Day can be closely looked at.

Despite being sensitive to the impact from the closures on the businesses and the people, Supervisor Janice Hahn was adamant LA County officials want to avoid a repeat of the June reopening which happened too quick and caused a spike in the new COVID-19 case numbers. The county will take a few weeks between reopenings to monitor the impact, she said.

Another Supervisor, Hilda Solis, representing Bell Gardens and Commerce, outlined she supported card room operations outdoors, with proper safety precautions, as she was concerned with the financial toll on the two cities and the loss of jobs in the communities.

The California Department of Public Health, while acknowledging that data on exactly where at the workplace outbreaks occurred was limited, issued guidance for card rooms how to reopen safely outdoors. And casino managers like Shaun Yaple, general manager of Hustler Casino in Gardena, are eager to restore the security of a job for the casinos’ employees.

A business owner which caters to card rooms in Florida and California, Roy Choi, noted cases for Florida card rooms which were allowed to operate indoors for months had been few and far, with only 8 out of 350 employees of one of the card rooms there having tested positive, and no further employees getting sick afterwards.

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