ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay poker room set to open up next week could be one of the first that reopens in the country.
Derby Lane announced on its website that it will restart live greyhound racing on Friday, May 8 and the card room will open with limited operations on Monday, May 11.
A regular poker player at Derby Lane reached out to 8 On Your Side because he thinks it is too risky to reopen so soon.
“When I play in normal games, we’re elbow to elbow and we’re exchanging chips,” Marvin Karlins said.
Karlins, a USF professor of management, told 8 on Your Side he is not concerned about racing resuming later this week.
“The racing side is no problem because they’ve got plenty of room there,” he said.
But Karlins said a poker room cannot safely reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Poker is the petri dish of pandemics,” he said. “It is extremely dangerous. As much as I love the game, I’d hate to have a winning hand and lose my life over it.”
8 On Your Side has learned a week from Monday, Derby Lane plans to open 13 of 52 (25 percent) of tables in the card room.
“St. Petersburg Kennel Club, Inc., whole-heartedly believes in the safety and wellbeing of its employees and guests are of utmost importance, too. We will require that all CDC and local restrictions be strictly enforced at all times,” Derby Lane Marketing, Web & Social Media Coordinator Alexis Winning said in an email to 8 On Your Side.
The email said the limit at Derby Lane poker tables will be six players. When the country’s most famous casinos in Las Vegas eventually reopen, the new norm will be a four person max per poker game.
“All players will be required to wear face masks and utilize hand protection e.g. gloves while on company property/and or hand sanitizer,” the email from Derby Lane said. “Players will have the option to use hand sanitizer in lieu of gloves if requested. Players that do not follow our social distancing requirements or act in a way that would cause concerns to other players will be asked to depart company property immediately.”
A May 1 letter sent to employees said positions will be eliminated when Derby Lane reopens with reduced operations.
“I feel bad because I know the people that are working there, the employees are out of work,” Karlins said.
Staff returning to work will have mandatory temperature checks and they’ll also be required to wear masks and gloves.
“Poker dealers will be excused from wearing gloves during the conduct of their duties but will have a container of hand sanitizer on their workstation,” the email from Derby Lane said.
8 On Your Side reached out to a spokesperson for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos. They have no set plans or date for when their casinos in Florida will reopen. They have been closed since March 20.