Derby Lane in Florida to Reopen Poker Room Next Week

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Florida racino Derby Lane announced on its website Sunday that its poker room will reopen in a limited fashion on May 11, which could make it the first in the US to resume operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Derby Lane
The poker room at Derby Lane racino in St. Petersburg, Florida, plans to reopen on May 11. (Image: Tampa Bay Times)

Poker Room to Open 12 Hours a Day

Live greyhound racing will return to the St. Petersburg facility on Friday, May 8, three days before poker returns. The room plans to run games from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, according to the notice.

Derby Lane Spokeswoman Alexis Winning told local TV station WFLA that games will be played six-max and that just 13 of the 52 tables in the room will be used. Winning said that players will be required to wear face masks and either wear gloves or use hand sanitizer.

“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,” she said.

Staff members must also wear masks and gloves, and submit to mandatory temperature checks. Winning said that poker dealers can use hand sanitizer instead of gloves to help with their duties.

“St. Petersburg Kennel Club, Inc., whole-heartedly believes in the safety and wellbeing of its employees and guests are of utmost importance, too,” she told WFLA. “We will require that all CDC and local restrictions be strictly enforced at all times.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board released guidelines for casinos in that state last week that mandate no more than four players per table when the facilities reopen.

Poker Author Marvin ‘Duckman’ Karlins Weighs In

Florida resident Marvin Karlins, author of several poker books and a final-table participant on the World Poker Tour, told CardsChat he doesn’t think many “degenerates like myself” will return to poker games immediately – whether at Derby Lane or any other casino.

Karlins also suspects that the vast majority of players will not want to play short-handed games. “Paying a blind every other hand is not an attractive alternative for most players,” he said.

Karlins notes that at Derby Lane, there would be seven people at a table (counting the dealer) in a space that is approximately 8 feet by 4 feet.

“The disease is still too widespread and there is no way social distancing will be able to be maintained, even if they limit four players to a table,” he noted of Nevada’s plan.

It could be a while before most players feel comfortable enough to re-enter poker rooms, even with reduced seats, Karlins said, and some who would brave enough to play will not be enticed by the small numbers of players.

“I am afraid that until we get an effective treatment and/or cure to this virus, poker and poker lovers are going to be in for some hard times,” he said.

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