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Sentinel staff report–
A massive 5,000-square-foot outdoor tent with card tables, air conditioning and water misters opened Monday outside Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights.
Temperature testing and photographs of each entrant is required at the main entrance, and masks are provided to anyone without one. Masked employees could be seen bringing drinks and food to patrons, walking back and forth between the gambling hall — which is closed to the public — and the outdoor venue.
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An adjacent 1,000-square-foot area with tables and umbrellas is also set up to serve diners ordering from Sammy’s Restaurant.
Kermit Schayltz, one of four partners who own the gambling hall, told The Sentinel on Wednesday he initially thought the undertaking of outdoor gaming would be impossible. But the more he researched, the more he warmed up to the idea.
He said the casino was ready to open outdoors last Friday, but with heat over 100 degrees and smoke “so thick you could cut it with a knife,” a decision was made to postpone the opening until Monday.
To open, the casino worked with numerous agencies to receive approval, including the California Attorney General’s office, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the City of Citrus Heights and Sacramento County Department of Public Health.
Schayltz, who said he was not speaking on behalf of Stones or his other ownership partners, said the casino’s loss of revenue after being shut down for well-over 100 days was a key consideration in pursuing the outdoor venue. He also said he anticipates shutdowns for indoor gaming to continue at least until the November election.
Stones first closed its doors in mid-March along with other businesses that were deemed non-essential to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It reopened briefly on June 12 when Schayltz said the casino received the “all clear” to do so, but then had to close again on July 1.
Noting hundreds of employees being out of work for months, he said the outdoor option has allowed Stones to get 300 employees back on the job, with open-air gaming operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The restaurant portion is open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Although operating at two-thirds capacity, Schayltz said “If we can get our people back to work and break even, it’s a home run.”
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