Word broke late Friday night that Wynn Resorts is the first casino in Las Vegas that has decided to temporarily shut down both its sportsbooks and its poker room as of Sunday. One of the biggest areas that could be hit hard by COVID-19 (coronavirus) is the poker industry. Common sense tells us that poker tables are in essence a living, breathing, Petri dish as players are touching and exchanging chips after every hand. Is it worth the risk to take a seat at a cash game in any casino in the country right now?
Poker pros such as Daniel Negreanu have taken to social media, advocating for poker rooms to cease operations.
Negreanu, one of the leading voices in the poker industry and one its most successful players with more than $42 million in live tournament earnings, is imploring poker players to take action.
“It’s our responsibility to think not just of ourselves but those that are high risk. We are fortunate that we can self quarantine. Not everyone is in that position to do so right now. Myself and my wife Amanda have been doing so for almost a week now.”
Negreanu believes that social distancing is the biggest key.
“Any and all measures to help social distancing are worthwhile. The only way to slow the spread right now is social distancing.”
Negreanu has received social support from fellow poker professional Phil Helmuth, who holds the record with 15 World Series of Poker bracelets. The ‘Poker Brat’ expressed that he now plans on skipping big poker tournaments that draw large crowds of players.
However, Negreanu has experienced strong backlash on Twitter and opposition from other poker pros such as Josh Arieh, who believe poker rooms should not make any changes.
As of Friday night, Wynn is the only Vegas casino that has announced its intention to suspend live, cash game operations. However, the World Poker Tour (WPT) announced late Thursday night that the WPT Event scheduled for March 13-17 at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas has been postponed.
Word also came down late Friday night that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) will be moving several of its Circuit events online.
There has been no official word from the WSOP if they intend to suspend or cancel their biggest event, which is held annually at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. It is scheduled to begin on May 26 and run through July 15. It appears that, as of Thursday, the WSOP was still conducting its Circuit Events as scheduled, as a winner was crowned at the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Los Angeles.
In addition, poker pro Kitty Kuo agrees with Negreanu’s beliefs and doesn’t see the value associated with the risks involved in hosting big tournaments in Las Vegas.
At the end of February, the WSOP stated that it had no plans to cancel the series in Las Vegas, but that may change as professional U.S. sports leagues continue to suspend or cancel events.
The U.S. Poker Open, a high-stakes series that draws some of the biggest names in poker, featuring buy-ins ranging between $10,000 up to $50,000, has been postponed. It was originally scheduled to run March 19-31 in Las Vegas.
“Company leadership will continue to monitor and follow the guidance of government health authorities before making decisions about rescheduling for future dates.”
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