By Marlee Ginter

TRACY (CBS13) – The luck of the draw is drawing people out to Stars Casino in Tracy after the casino moved operations outdoors following a voluntary shutdown amid the pandemic.

“We’re on a first-name basis with everyone, so we’re like family,” said Carol Lussier, a dealer at the casino.

Lussier said she is relieved to be back at work dealing cards.    

“Very important. I have a 77-year-old mother that I care for and this is the only income that I have and I am the sole provider for the house,” she said.

But it’s been a roller coaster to get here. The casino voluntarily shut its doors in March at the start of the pandemic – then reopened in July only to be shut back down within hours by the Governor’s orders.

Without income and fixed expenses we’re looking at just trying to survive and being able to open our doors with the blessing of the county and the state we’re hoping to be able to stay open,” said Stars Casino COO Emmanuel Macalino.

Everyone is now playing by a different set of rules. Temperatures get checked at the door. Everyone is wearing masks. Only four people are allowed to a table instead of eight and workers are required to constantly sanitize those tables.

Still, not everyone agrees.

“That is so crazy to me. I feel like these kids need to get their education again before they start gambling,” Jackie Martinez said.I feel like they should worry about opening up more important things than a casino, definitely, but they’re going to do what they’re going to do regardless.”

For Lussier, she said it’s a matter of making money and paying the bills.

“I’m almost 60 years old it’s very hard to find another job because I’ve been in this industry for 34 years,” she said.

Casino officials tell CBS13 they worked with state and San Joaquin County officials to help ensure thorough outdoor gaming safety plans were in place.

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