Tag Archives: COVID-19

COVID-19 Violations: First Fines Already Hitting Players

NFLBy Madhan

Last year was rough for sports, including the National Football League (NFL). COVID-19 caused cancellations, postponements, and many rescheduled games for the 2020-21 NFL season. For the 2021-22 season, the NFL is dead serious about disruptions this season — There’s no room for any. Teams already know how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and need to follow protocols in place or face fines and even forfeit games if they fail to comply.

NFL to Fine Players Nearly $15K for EACH Violation

Fines are nothing new in professional sports or the NFL. COVID-19 fines aren’t new either. In 2020, the Ravens and Patriots Franchises were fined $250,000 each, and the Titans paid $350,000.

Now fines are falling to individual players. The league announced that unvaccinated players would pay a $14,650 fine for every COVID-19 preventative health measure violation.

Players can’t go to gatherings outside a club facility or travel in groups larger than three without wearing a face covering. That includes nightclubs and other large gatherings of groups of ten or more.

Fines are also possible for private gatherings of unvaccinated players with more than 15 people. Additionally, the unvaccinated must wear a tracking device that alerts a system to close contact during most social events, including team practices. The fines go up to $50,000 or more for anyone that refuses COVID-19 tests and other more serious violations.

Buffalo Bill’s Beasley in the News Again

Two Buffalo Bill’s players have already been fined for violating COVID-19 rules. Cole Beasley, who is gaining more headlines in 2021 for speaking out against vaccinations than making plays in practice, Tweeted in support of his fellow teammate, Isaiah McKenzie after he Tweeted a screenshot of his violation letter from the NFL. Beasley wrote, “Don’t Worry, they got me too.”

He also points out that he’s tested negative for COVID-19 for a few days and was wearing a mask when interacting with the staff member with a positive result for the Delta variant.

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Vaccination Rates High in the NFL

On a positive note, as of the end of July, the number of vaccinated players in the league was estimated at 80%. Last year’s Super Bowl winner, the Buccaneers, are 85% vaccinated. Buffalo Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, said the team was about 81% fully vaccinated.

A big push for the Bills players was fellow teammate Dion Dawkins who spent four days in the hospital with the virus. McDermott supports players’ rights to choose but personally wishes all would get the vaccination. Nonetheless, vaccination status won’t be a deciding factor in who plays this season.

These are the first fines of the new season. They won’t be the last. However, hopefully, it’s enough to encourage players to follow the rules and increase the vaccination rate.


NCAA COVID Protocols: Can’t Play? Forfeit

By MadhanNCAA Covid-19 Testing

Ouch! After a contentious 2020 college football season that led to dozens of canceled and rescheduled games, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is putting its foot down for 2021. Going into the second COVID-19 school year, teams will face severe consequences for failing to follow CDC guidelines and reduce the spread to their team.

What Are the New Rules for Teams in 2021?

Similar to most sports regulations, the rules vary depending on if you’re vaccinated or not. Unvaccinated football players have to test three times a week. Next comes masks. According to the new rules, vaccinated players must still wear masks indoors, but they’re okay outside. However, unvaccinated team members are required to wear their masks inside and out.

Do Teams Have Separate COVID Regulations?

Different teams and conferences in the NCAA have separate rules. For example, the Big Ten announced that any team that doesn’t have enough eligible players to play would forfeit the game. No more rescheduling or exceptions to the rules. The NFL made a similar decision earlier in the year. More conferences and sports leagues are expected to make similar statements.

Rules for Fans

With so many teams, it’s impossible to cover each stadium in a short article. However, most schools across the country are mandating students get vaccinated to attend classes. As of August, a few of the dozens of schools have announced full vaccination requirements for game attendance.

These include Syracuse, Tulane, and Oregon and Oregon State. As of now, most non-student fans aren’t required to show proof of vaccination to attend games in the NCAA. That could change depending on how quickly the virus spreads this fall.

But that’s not true for the professional leagues. Some NFL teams are opting only to allow vaccinated fans into their home games. Nonetheless, many sports arenas are expected to impose mask rules and distancing for fans.

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What Do the Vaccination Levels Look Like in the NCAAF?

While a few teams are fully vaccinated, the college system as a whole doesn’t look good.

NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline explained,  “Current vaccination rates remain inadequate to provide community-level immunity.”

Hainline continues to stress, “It is essential that member schools work in concert with federal, state and local public health officials to develop COVID-19 prevention and management strategies that make sense for them.”

But some schools are striving ahead of the rest. Ole Miss, Boston College, and Arizona all have a 100% vaccination rate!

One thing’s for sure during the 2021-22 NCAA football season, sports fans and teams will see far fewer cancellations as everyone works to avoid exposure and prevent costly forfeits. However, as more teams are fully vaccinated, sports will bring the world closer to normalcy.


Casino & Card Room Reopenings and Emails

By Bill Zender.1)EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated and shortened in 2023.

Bill Zender and Associates

It appears everyone in the industry is preparing to reopen their casinos and/or card-rooms.  One thing for sure, from the reopening procedures that I have seen, there really is not an established set of procedures that anyone is required to do.  Base on all my research in COVID-19 and my knowledge of casino and card-room operations, the following procedures need to be the “core” procedures to reopen.


  1. Temperature checked at the door before entering.
  2. Mandatory face masks wore while in the casino.
  3. Mandatory sanitizing/washing of hands upon entrance to the casino; sanitizing as they enter a table game.

Some casinos are not making the customers wearing of face masks mandatory, and they are going to have some problems keeping a safe environment for both customers and employees.  Of all the COVID procedures, wearing a face mask at all times is the most important.  Social distancing is important, but social distancing needs diminish if everyone wears a face mask.


  1. Temperature checked when entering the building to work.
  2. Mandatory face mask wore while working on the casino floor and near other employees.
  3. Mandatory sanitizing/washing of hands before they enter a table game to deal, and then again when they leave the table (for break or game rotation).
  4. COVID RNA testing is important, but resources are limited.  This procedure can be treated as “optional” until test resources become available.

Fask Mask Policy

If management does not make the customers wear a face mask at the table, the dealers need to be assigned protective face shields, and it is highly recommended that the dealers be given N95 face masks.  This will keep the infection to the employees at a minimum.
Sanitizing surfaces and equipment:

  1. All surfaces need to be wiped down on a regular basis; when the customer leaves a game, and/or once an hour.
  2. Playing cards deal face-down to the customers need to be replaced every few hours, or as needed.
  3. Casino chips need to receive cleaning/sanitizing once a day (table and cage).

The CDC has stated that fomite transfer of the virus is minimal due to the nature of the virus and surfaces it can be transfer from (see link: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2020/05/19/cdc-virus-does-not-spread-easily-on-contaminated-surfaces/24356961/).  Even though, sanitation of surfaces and chips still have to be accomplished on a regular basis.

Following is an excellent article on how COVID-19 is infectious to the human body.  The article goes on to explain how COVID-19 is transferred from one person to another (primarily through aerosol droplets).  This article gives the reader a true understanding as what to fear and prepare for when dealing with safety issues in the casino/cardroom environment https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them.

If anyone has any questions about these casino/cardroom safety issues, please feel free to contact me, wzender@aol.com.  I have also attached the link to my article on protection strategies for dealing with COVID-19 in the casino/cardroom https://www.casinojournal.com/articles/93592-developing-a-coronavirus-protection-strategy-for-casinos-and-cardrooms.
Please stay safe out there.
Interesting Emails

EmailOver the past month I received mostly questions regarding table games and the effect that COVID, and game restrictions due to social distancing have to do with table game profitability and safety.  Following are a few of these emails.

Question #1:
Just wondering if you know of any safeguards being used or suggested for live poker play? Since everyone touches the cards and chips, how can a casino provide any protection for the players or dealers?  Thank you for your thoughts.

The issue in live poker (hold’em, seven-card-stud, etc.) is not that the players touch the cards and chips, it is the number of players allowed at the table.  Under many of the jurisdictions’ reopening guidelines the game cannot have more than four players at the table (based on social distancing requirements).  Normally, games with 8 to 9 players are considered strong games, 6 to 7 players considered weak games, and 5 or less players will break down.  You might be able to spread five handed games for less rake/collection, but it might not be worth the space if you are also allowed slots and other table games.  I doubt you could keep a four handed game going regardless the rake/collection. I have advised several of my clients to hold off opening poker for now and wait until social distancing requirements have relaxed.

BTW, infection from touching cards and chips is quite low (known as fomite transfer). The big infection vehicle is droplets released from an infected customer’s nose and mouth during sneezes, coughs, and even through normal conversation.  If you make it mandatory that the customers wear a mask at all times, and that they have to wash/sanitize their hands on a regular bases (as well as employees), then you still will be safe to change the decks once every couple of hours, and sanitizing the chips used once a day.  If wearing a mask while in the casino is not mandatory, then you’re asking for trouble, and your employees and customers will be in an unsafe environment.

Question #2:
Thanks for the update and I hope you’re well.  Following up on your risk factors I have a question.  In an effort to reduce as many touch points as we can, I would like to offer UTH as a face up game where the guests don’t touch the cards at all.  I’ve looked online to see if there’s anything on how much of the house edge we would be giving up and haven’t found anything official other than some comments on reddit and other blogs.  If the game were dealt in this manner would it become beatable?  I’m sure you’re getting inundated with emails/messages with all the casinos closed but if you have time for an opinion, I’d appreciate it.

Reply (first time):
If you have been intending to make a game change to face-up UTH, then go ahead, but don’t make this change because of COVID.  Right now you will have too many issues on your plate to make a game change.  A game change is something you don’t want on your plate right now.

I would conduct a risk assessment on your geographic area.  If the number of infections cased to population in your area are low, I would deal the games as normal with the exception of social distancing of one player every other seat (like the other games).  If your risk is high because there is an elevated infection level in your area, I might not open alternative “touch” games at all (or any touch games).  Remember, playing cards and casino chips have the same issue.  If you find it’s too dangerous to touch the cards, it’s too dangerous to touch the chips.  Doing your geographical and demographic risk assessment is the first step.

By doing a risk assessment you will be in a better position to know what you have to do to keep the customers and staff save.  The important step in the next month is to reopen as safely as possible, and then expand from there.  It won’t be like it used to be, not for many months, possibly never again.

Reply (second time):
I wanted to follow up on your questions.  I’m hearing that regulators in some jurisdictions will not allow card games where the players touch any of the cards.  To answer your original questions; the games you mentioned, UTH, should be fine to deal the player’s original cards (hole-cards) face-up.  The rule of thumb when looking for possible customer card information collusion is to gain knowledge of a total of 35 or more cards before making a decision.  For example; Caribbean Stud Poker is open to collusion since a 7-spot game allows the “advantage players” in collusion to know the value of 35 cards plus the dealer’s exposed card (total 36 card information).  Even if you allowed players to wager on all possible table spots, UTH would not provide enough card information knowledge to give up an advantage.  Just be sure to keep the dealer’s cards unexposed (and protected) until they need to be exposed.  If you have any questions, please let me know.

Question #3:
I was hoping you could answer a question or point me in a direction of resources.  We are debating on whether to open with table games.  We are looking at 3 spots per table.  What would be the minimum bet at each game type to make profitable?  We currently have class II and class III games.  Class III is only blackjack.  Class II is blackjack and carnival with a house take of the drop.  Appreciate any information you can provide.

I hope you are staying safe.  The question you ask is somewhat complex.  Attached is a spreadsheet I designed for BNP’s Cutting Edge presentation in LV.  The spreadsheet is used to illustrate what minimum bets are needed to cover the cost of a dealer and a portion of the floorman’s cost.  There are several yellow cells where you can change the variables.  These variables include average wager, number of hands wagered, house advantage (H/A%), rounds dealt per hour, and labor cost.  By changing some of the variables, you will be able to develop a good idea what the revenue, related labor costs, and whether the game can produce a positive gross profit.  Remember, this gross profit will later be reduced by equipment costs, promotional cost (think comps), and other operational costs related to that table game.

The H/A% to the right of the model are estimated H/A% for the different games you offer.  The estimated H/A% takes into consideration any side bet.  The average bet per customer would then take into consideration any amount wagered on side bets.  Also, remember to use only the amount of money that is on the layout at the time the dealer starts dealing the game.  Do not include any additional funds used to place call bets or other bets placed after the round begins and before a decision is made.  I didn’t include side bet affect in BJ since the side bets vary and the amount/frequency varies greatly as well.
Play with the model a little bit, and if you have any questions afterwards, feel free to email me and ask.  Good luck with your project and casino reopening.
I even received an email from a casino executive who had something other than a COVID-19 related question:

Recently at one of our casinos poker rooms a dealer was stealing chips from the pot at a 9 handed NL game. What he would do is while making change during the course of action he would shortchange the pot to the eventual winner by $1. He would make the incorrect change and leave the stolen dollar in his chip tray. Once he accumulated $25 worth of stolen chips, he would remove the $25 chip by palming it and placing it in his sock. Eventually a player at his table noticed and notified our poker manager. Which I believe is what we are hoping for, the players to monitor the amount they receive when winning a pot. I was wondering if you knew of any additional steps, we can implement to stop this from happening again? Our dealers do not bring their own chip tray to the table. 

Stealing in poker usually happens by shorting the pot during the process of making change (I imagine changing a $5 chip and spraying only four $1 chips back into the pot), or by collecting the pot rake and jackpot amount, and stealing a dollar or two as the collection and jackpot amount is dropped.  In the first example, the dollar comes from the player winning the pot, and in the second example the dollar comes from the house.  Since your dealer was converting 25 dollar chips to a green check, he was probably working on the theft collection for over an hour.

The best way to catch this type of stealing is to have someone in surveillance conduct special operations of each dealer once every one or two months.  The surveillance operator watches the dealer over a period of several downs to see if they are stealing.  Once your operator gets some experience looking for these steal moves, they become easy to spot.  You really need to catch three or more incidents before acting, which means termination.

When I was working as a consultant at a Southern California cardroom, I had surveillance run a sweep of all the poker dealers every three or four months.  Then when we caught a dealer stealing, we made a big deal about it so the other poker dealers would see we were watching.  The other dealers would be “good boys and girls” for several months.  Then several months later, we would run another surveillance sweep until we caught someone else.
On the moveQuestions???
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate to contact me through email.  I answer emails about gaming every daywzender@aol.comI really am here to help.
Cheers and good luck.
Bill Zender
Bill Zender and Associates



1EDITOR NOTE: Post below updated and shortened in 2023.