Issue 226
January 10 - 16, 2005
Volume 5
page 1

This Issue

Gaming News

Ante up, fans: Dog track adds poker room January 17

Group seeking Kansas casino unveils plans

Tycoon Stanley Ho to open his 14th casino in Macau

Birmingham council to select NEC's 300million scheme

Paddy Power targets online poker profits

Show Time Bobby Vinton Trump Plaza and Hotel in Atlantic City.

Column Playing Winning Poker Requires Using Your Head By Fred Renzey

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Ante up, fans: Dog track adds poker room January 17

As Reported by Florida Today

MELBOURNE, Florida - Poker seems to be the hottest gambling game around these days, and Melbourne Greyhound Park wants a piece of the action.

One week 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 1.

"I 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.

"I've always loved playing cards, and I thought this would beat working in an office," she said.

Officials of Melbourne 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.

An increase 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 the Melbourne Greyhound Park more of a tourist draw.

"There 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 -- jobs."

The company 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.

The track, 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.

And while there is no projection on how many people the poker room may draw, other greyhound tracks that offer the game have had success.

"Poker 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."

The Travel Channel airs the popular television show "World Poker Tour," which to a great degree is credited for the poker craze.

To accommodate 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 poker tables.

The company is offering free dealer training sessions so there will be enough staff on hand for the launch next week.

"This 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."

Track 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.

The 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.

That, Biddix said, could improve the quality of greyhounds coming to Melbourne to race.

"Of course, a lot of the kennel owners want a share in the money," he said. "That will help us attract and keep high-quality animals."

As long 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.

"The 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."

Biddix said he believed the poker crows and the greyhound crowd actually are quite similar.

"The 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.

"From 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 off."

Group seeking Kansas casino unveils plans
As reported by

GALENA, Kansas - A group seeking a destination casino in southeast Kansas has developed plans for a 250-room hotel and 80,000-square-foot casino.

The proposal, which was unveiled during a news conference Friday in Galena, was sparked by a bill Gov. Kathleen Sebelius proposed a year ago that would have allowed up to five state-owned casinos.

Though the bill ultimately was rejected by lawmakers, the debate resulted in an unexpected finding. A study commissioned by the Kansas Lottery found that southeast Kansas, and more specifically Galena, would be the best bet for a complex in the state.

A group called Kansans for Economic Growth, which unveiled the casino plans, was formed as a result. Its members are hopeful the casino issue will come up again this year in the Legislature.

Ross Vogel, spokesman for Kansans for Economic Growth, and some lawmakers said a Kansas Supreme Court ruling could prompt the Legislature to look for new sources of revenue to increase funding for public education.

The court found that legislators aren't living up to their constitutional duty to provide a suitable education for more than 460,000 students. The court said more money is needed but left it to lawmakers to figure out how much to spend and how to spend it.

"With the conservative nature of the House, they are not going to want to increase taxes. We are going to have to have an alternative source.," said Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus.

Representative-Elect Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, offered a similar assessment.

"I think the courts mandate will make it (expanded gaming) more palatable for some of the people who have been reluctant to support it in the past," she said.

Should the plan pass, many details would need to be completed.

For instance, Kansans for Economic Growth has not proposed a location for the casino, though Galena appears to be the most likely site. Vogel anticipated casino developers would foot the bill.

"First of all, we have already had calls from developers because of the merit of the study," Vogel said. "I think we would be in a real competitive advantage situation that we could get the best developer possible. Casino developers have far much more money than Kansans for Economic Growth, so they would probably be the ones that would fund that."

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