After two months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s poker rooms and, perhaps more importantly, the Seminole Indians casino system will begin the slow process of reopening their properties. In these reopenings, there is an extreme importance placed on the cleanliness of the properties and keeping the players distant from each other. For the Florida poker rooms, some plans are ideas that should potentially be used in other poker rooms around the world.
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa to Open Thursday Night
Per an e-mail from the property, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa will be the first property to open for the six-site conglomerate. The Seminole property in Tampa is their second largest behind their location in Hollywood, which (because of its location in Broward County) is still currently being shuttered. The e-mail was quite thorough in the direction of the Hard Rock Tampa, covering the entirety of the hotel and casino grounds along with the poker room once it reopens on Thursday night at 7PM.
The new Seminole “Safe & Sound” program is introducing a plethora of new features, including special cleaning teams around the casino area that will be expressly tasked with cleaning and sanitizing surfaces. An air purification system, the AtomsAir bipolar ionization system, will be utilized on the property with the goal of “(destroying) virus particles in the air and on surfaces” of gaming equipment. Although they do not state how they will do it, social distancing measures will be “enforced throughout the casino, (at all) walkways, gaming devices and tables.”
Here are the areas that poker players might be interested in. Not only will the employees of the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa be required to wear face masks, all guests and players will be required to wear facial coverings or masks. The poker room itself will operate at half capacity, or 23 of the normal 46 tables that would normally be in operation, with a max of six players per table and (for the month of May) a cap of $3 on each hand’s rake. The tables at the Hard Rock Tampa will also feature plexiglass dividers, giving the appearance of a cubicle, while the poker rooms states that the cards and chips will be cleaned on a “regular basis.”
Palm Beach Kennel Club Goes a Bit Further
The Palm Beach Kennel Club, one of the top dog track/simulcast outlets and poker rooms in the Sunshine State, has been much more forthcoming on what their procedures will be when they open on Friday. First, the games will be played with a certain number of players to be determined by the management. There will be no waiting for a game on the property; they will have to purchase their chips and immediately head to the tables, where another change will greet them.
Instead of possibly being able to move to a different table or a different stake (as players are wont to do), players will have to stay at their seat for the duration of their play at the casino. Dealers, likewise, will not be rotating between tables anymore. Instead, the dealer will be assigned to a table and stay there for the entirety of their shift. Chips also will be table specific; they will only leave the table through either the dealer drop box, the dealer’s tip box or cashed out by the players and these chips will not reenter play until they have been sanitized.
Some of these changes by the Palm Beach Kennel Club would potentially be great ideas for other poker rooms. Eating at the table is prohibited now and drinks will be served with a cupholder that is removed and cleaned before another customer uses it. And, in an innovative move, the dealer button will be replaced by a bottle of hand sanitizer; when the “button” reaches a player, they will be “encouraged” to use it (as they will be required to once they come to a table).
The casino openings and the Florida poker rooms opening are sure to offer some insights into how other casinos and poker rooms elsewhere might handle their openings. The Seminoles haven’t given any indications as to when their other properties might open, however, and other poker rooms in the state are handling their openings in their own manner.