By Ashley Orona
BELL GARDENS — The Bicycle Hotel and Casino reopened Oct. 5 after the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the county Board of Supervisors announced that card rooms were allowed to reopen for outdoor operations only.
Games will only be available outside in compliance with COVID-19 safety guidelines with physical barriers between players. Food and beverage cannot be served at gaming tables. Hotel and casino guests and employees must wear masks on the premises and temperature checks are also being conducted.
As of Oct. 8, Bell Gardens has had 2,061 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with a high case rate of 4,785 per 100,000 residents. The Bicycle Hotel and Casino is the largest revenue producer in Bell Gardens, contributing 45% of the general fund operating revenue, according to city officials. The casino was ordered to close in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and has since lost an estimated $8 million in revenue.
“We want to have our families be employed and at the same time bring in the much needed revenue into our cities so that we can offer our constituency the basic services they need,” Mayor Alejandra Cortez said.
Elected officials in Hawaiian Gardens, Commerce, Compton, Bell Gardens and Gardena have been pushing for casinos to reopen due to their dependence on the revenue coming from their operations. Many of the cities have lost millions of dollars from their operating budget due to the closures.
The Bicycle Casino employs about 100 people in Bell Gardens and the surrounding cities. Employees have been laid off since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency stay-at-home order in March due to the pandemic. There was a brief three-week opening in July before the casinos closed down again.
The city has cut programming and any special events that do not fit the budget as well as reduced salaries for staff as a way to compensate for the loss in revenue. The city might be looking at furloughs for city employees if they continue losing revenue from the casino, according to Cortez.
“Our casinos are committed to safety,” said Cortez. “They’ve implemented so many new technologies and new measures and the Department of Public Health is very stringent on them.”
L.A. County also has allowed additional sectors to reopen, including nail salons and outside playgrounds. Nail salons can resume service indoors with only a 25% capacity but still recommend outdoor services when possible. Playgrounds are allowed to reopen at the discretion of cities and L.A. County Parks and Recreation. Bell Gardens plans on allowing those to reopen as well.
Ashley Orona is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers the East Los Angeles area. She can be reached at Oronash@gmail.com.