Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

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La Center cardrooms begin to reopen

As they await Phase 3, one opens doors with new safety measures, reduced hours

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:
4 Photos
Gary Pfannes, an on-duty manager, demonstrates the use of a germicidal wand to sanitize casino chips in between use Wednesday at The Palace Casino in La Center. The Palace reopened Wednesday.
Gary Pfannes, an on-duty manager, demonstrates the use of a germicidal wand to sanitize casino chips in between use Wednesday at The Palace Casino in La Center. The Palace reopened Wednesday. (Photos by Alisha Jucevic/ The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A massive revenue source for the city of La Center is returning as cardrooms begin to reopen.

Under Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, cardrooms can open at 25 percent capacity while adhering to a lengthy list of health guidelines to curb the spread of COVID-19. When Clark County enters Phase 3, cardrooms can open at 50 percent capacity.

La Center’s two cardrooms — The Palace Casino and Last Frontier Casino — closed in mid-March. The Palace reopened Wednesday.

Taxes from the cardrooms account for more than one-third of the city’s budgeted revenue. City officials have predicted about $500,000 in losses as a result of the cardroom closures.

Steve Michels, owner of The Palace, said that, due to the nature of the casino business, he is always prepared for consecutive days worth of losses.

“Well, those bad days did turn into several months, but we did have enough to make it in reserve this time,” Michels said.

In the months since its closure, cardroom employees have completed training on social distancing and cleaning protocols, Michels said. Customers who enter the cardroom will quickly notice changes, such as plastic dividers to separate players and piles of face masks that players are required to wear.

The cardroom, which has typically been open every hour of every day, will be closed from 5 to 9 a.m. In the four hours the building is closed to the public, employees will be cleaning and restocking items, such as masks and hand sanitizer, Michels said.

The Palace, which employed about 170 people before the virus, will also have a reduced staff due, in part, to the reduction in hours, according to the casino owner.

Game rules won’t change, but they may take longer as employees follow safety procedures, such as swapping out cards and chips, Michels said.

“It’ll take some time,” he said.

Michels said that while Wednesday had been the tentative reopening date for some time — despite the ability to reopen earlier in Phase 2 — he was hoping it would align with the next phase.

“We were trying to be a little more cautious,” Michels said. “It just made more sense for us to take our time, do it properly and get everything set up.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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