Europeans Can Play in WSOP Main Event After US Eases COVID Travel Ban

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The 2021 WSOP Main Event could truly be an international event. That’s because vaccinated, European-based poker players will be able to travel to the Rio in Las Vegas once US officials lift the international travel ban that’s been in place since March 2020.

European poker players will be allowed to travel to the US in time for the WSOP Main Event. (Image: 888Poker)

Players will have to show proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19 and have tested negative within three days of their travel date. The WSOP Main Event begins Nov. 4. 

Rolling out the welcome mat

The federal government will lift its longstanding travel restrictions and allow travelers from the UK and European Union to travel to the US sometime starting in early November. That’s according to an announcement made today by White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients.

“This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans and international air travel safe,” Zients said. “By requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to fly to the United States, and in implementing additional strict safety protocols, we will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel.”

Zients did not give a firm date as to when the travel ban will actually end.

The WSOP previously announced that anyone wanting to play in any of this year’s 88 events will have to show proof they are vaccinated against COVID-19. “This is not a decision we have taken lightly – it is made with no agenda beyond protecting player eligibility and the operations of a unique televised gaming event,” said Ty Stewart, WSOP Executive Director. “The nature of poker is to be in close proximity with your opponents for extended periods of time, and a seat at the World Series of Poker is a commitment for both our company and the participants. We want players to be excited for their return to the WSOP while offering the greatest level of protection and limiting complications during the tournament this fall.”

Easing restrictions a popular move

While COVID remains active in many parts of the country, several organizations and world leaders thanked the Biden administration for opening up air travel to the US. 

“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” said US Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow in a statement.

The organization counts more than 1,100 organizations within the travel industry among its members, including airlines, lodging, and transportation companies. It noted that travel declined 42% last year and estimated that if the restrictions were not ended, it would cost the American economy $325 billion and a million jobs by the end of 2021.

Sara Nelson president of the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents more than 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, also released a statement. “We applaud the Biden Administration for announcing plans to reunite families and open travel with strict procedures to ensure transportation doesn’t aid in the spread of the virus,” she said. “International travel is essential to the stability of our jobs and the full recovery of the U.S. airline industry, but recovery is only possible if we remain focused first on safety and health.”

British Airways CEO and Chairman Sean Doyle said the decision “marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.”

Just last week, the Biden administration said the travel ban would remain in place even after European countries ended travel restrictions that affected Americans in July. 

The U.S. ban on nonessential travel has been in place since early 2020, starting with China and expanding to visitors from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the 29 regions in the European Schengen region, Iran, Brazil, South Africa, and India.

The CDC will decide what vaccinations will be accepted once the travel restrictions are finally lifted.

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