up, fans: Dog track adds poker room January 17
Reported by Florida Today
Florida - Poker seems to be the hottest gambling game around
these days, and Melbourne
Greyhound Park wants a piece of the action.
from today, the track -- known for its live dog racing -- will
open a 10-table poker room as a test center for a permanent,
40-table poker room to be opened upstairs at the track on April
think having poker will bring a lot more people here,"
said Kathy Hill, an aspiring dealer from Melbourne who is learning
the ropes. She is one of 28 dealers who now are training for
a new career.
always loved playing cards, and I thought this would beat working
in an office," she said.
Greyhound Park -- which in October received county approval
to operate a poker room -- said while patrons will be spending
money in the card room, the new operation will generate some
150 new jobs and plenty of revenue for the community.
in customers wouldn't hurt, either, for the facility, where
paid attendance has dropped nearly 66 percent during the past
six years. A combination of dog racing and poker could make
Greyhound Park more of a tourist draw.
is nothing like this for miles around," said Patrick Biddix,
general manager of the Melbourne Greyhound Park. "We were
allowed to operate a poker room because of the main reason --
that owns the greyhound track -- Dallas-based EFO LP, which
purchased the facility in August -- is betting the venture will
be successful. It is shelling out an estimated $3 million to
$4 million for renovations to accommodate its new offering.
located at 1100 N. Wickham Road, also just switched from a six-month
greyhound-racing season to a year-round schedule, so it can
also offer poker year-round. Under current regulations, greyhound
tracks must have a "performance" of at least eight
races a day if they want to have poker rooms.
there is no projection on how many people the poker room may
draw, other greyhound tracks that offer the game have had success.
used to be the 'red-headed stepchild' of the gaming business,"
said track patron Tom Mighton. "But, now, it's the hottest
thing around, since it's been on TV. Everyone is looking for
a place to play Texas Hold'em or five-card or seven-card stud."
Channel airs the popular television show "World Poker Tour,"
which to a great degree is credited for the poker craze.
the anticipated rush of poker players to the 35-year-old facility,
EFO LP has contracted out architects who have designed a completely
revamped, 16,000-square-foot second floor that will hold 40
is offering free dealer training sessions so there will be enough
staff on hand for the launch next week.
is something that's beneficial for the community in a variety
of ways," Biddix said. "We're creating jobs, and people
really want a new form of entertainment around here. Poker is
hot, and there isn't another poker room around here. It's going
to be a great addition to the community."
officials say the next-closest poker rooms of this kind are
in the Daytona Beach Kennel Club to the north and the Palm Beach
Kennel Club to the south.
Melbourne facility takes a cut of the money poker players
wager -- and the state of Florida and the kennels that supply
the dogs for the greyhound races will get some of that money.
said, could improve the quality of greyhounds coming to Melbourne
course, a lot of the kennel owners want a share in the money,"
he said. "That will help us attract and keep high-quality
as the facility runs one "performance" -- a series
of at least eight dog races -- a day, the poker room can operate
from noon to midnight, according to David Roberts, director
of the Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering.
intent is to bring more patrons to the facility, while they
also play poker," Roberts said. "When a track puts
in a poker room, the hope is the track brings in new people
who are not accustomed to greyhound racing. Poker is the big
hit right now. All you had to do was go to the stores at Christmas,
and you would have seen how hot the poker games and anything
related to poker really was."
he believed the poker crows and the greyhound crowd actually
are quite similar.
greyhound crowd and the poker crowd are absolutely the same
customers," he said. "I believe one will feed off
the other. It's good all the way around."
One of the
main reasons the dogs will be running year-round is to support
the poker room operation, he said.
the greyhound people's perspective, to run year-round, instead
of just in the winter season, is great because the kennels will
get substantial purse money from the poker room," he said.
"And the poker will carry the expense of running the dogs
year-round. We're hoping to be profitable the first year, and
we're hoping this all will have been a new investment that pays