With all of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos closed, poker players used to tournaments and cash games in card rooms have been left to duel online. While possibly a socially distanced home game or two might have taken place during quarantine, former poker room residents are clamoring to get back to playing cards the old fashion way.
Unfortunately, poker-playing casino patrons will have to wait a little while longer before they can return to card rooms. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has outlined a new set of health and safety protocols for casinos to follow to combat the spread of COVID-19.
In a 10-page document released today, the PGCB states:
Poker rooms are not authorized to operate due to players handling cards and chips. Poker room operations will be re-examined based upon changing CDC and PA DOH guidance.
Pennsylvania’s Reopening Protocols for Casinos
Governor Tom Wolf has outlined a three-phase, color-coded plan for reopening the state of Pennsylvania.
- Green signifies an area is ready to reopen without restrictions.
- Yellow denotes an area where businesses are operational and restrictions on large social gatherings are in place.
- Red means only stay-at-home orders are in effect and only “life-sustaining” businesses are permitted to operate.
Stay-at-home orders are slowly being lifted throughout the state. But as legislators weigh the risk of crowds gathering in confined spaces, casinos have cautiously remained on the backburner. The governor’s color-coded plan prevents casinos from reopening until the counties they’re located in reach the “green” phase.
Bad Beat for Pennsylvania’s Poker Players
The PGCB’s restrictions may seem over-the-top, but considering how frequently cards and chips change hands during just an hour’s worth of play, it’s a reasonable policy to implement. Whether Pennsylvania’s casinos find an alternate method to distribute cards and chips could determine how long the poker ban continues.
The new health and safety protocols also specify casino patrons in Pennsylvania are required to wear a mask covering their nose and mouth. To prevent customers from completely concealing their identity, the PGCB’s policy specifically outlines casinos should discourage patrons from wearing hats inside. If a patron insists on wearing a hat inside the casino, they will be asked to temporarily take off their hat and lower their mask to be captured by security cameras for identification.
Tough break if you’re a poker player who likes wearing hats.