Months after casinos reopen, poker rooms in Ohio remain closed

Poker dealers are still waiting to return to work after nearly a year of unemployment
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 9:48 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It’s been more than 10 months since the pandemic started and most businesses have reopened, but one group is still waiting for the Governor’'s approval. Poker rooms remain closed across the state and dealers want answers.

“I’ve been doing this up in Michigan since I was 18 and that is all I know how to do and it kinda just got yanked out from under me,” says Jarrid Bucciarelli.

Bucciarelli has worked in the poker room at Hollywood Casino Toledo since 2012. Back in March, the casinos across Ohio shutdown due to COVID-19 leaving hundreds of people unemployed.

In June, Governor Dewine casinos to reopen the slots and table games but Dewine is not taking a gamble on poker.

“Personally I don’t see the difference between a poker table versus a blackjack or craps table, people are still gathered around a table, they touch chips and cards and the casino is taking all the precautions in the poker room so I don’t know why we aren’t open,” says Sajah Ahmed.

Casinos across the state all have messages alerting guests that the poker room is closed. Sajah Ahmed and her husband are both dealers at Hollywood Casino. They had to put plans to buy a house on hold. Then in August they were both terminated- leaving them without health insurance.

“I have a lot of health issues that I haven’t been able to go to the doctor for....It’s been really hard,” says Ahmed.

Bucciarelli says he’s in a tough spot. There are other jobs at the casino but if he takes one, his position in the poker room is not guaranteed when it reopens.

“Because we are changing unions we lose our rights to come back.”

Both dealers are frustrated that their careers are on hold- while the casino is open for business and everyone else still has the choice to take a risk.

“There’s just countless states, Indiana is open, Pennsylvania is open, Michigan is probably gonna beat us and reopen. We are literally going to be surrounded by states that have poker open,” says Bucciarelli.

13abc reached out to Governor Dewine’s office on Wednesday afternoon for a timeline for when poker rooms will be able to reopen and the reasoning behind the extended closure. We are still waiting for a response.

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