The best buy for the buck among Las Vegas area casinos just may be exactly the way Eastside Cannery was planned.
"This is a functional book. It has to be," said Eric St. Clair, director of race and sports operations for the Eastside Cannery, the Cannery in North Las Vegas and Rampart in Summerlin. "We built Eastside with the idea of both not overspending and attracting the customer, giving them more in the way of comps than anywhere else. And, we’ve done it."
The Eastside Cannery was born Aug. 28 of last year, becoming the first major locals casino to open on the Boulder Highway since Boulder Station 14 years ago. And, at a cost of $250 million, it has achieved the same goals as many billion dollar resorts.
"We don’t overspend," St. Clair said. "There has to be a limit on how much you can pay for big screens. We have the area for big screen TV’s, but we want to see if the market warrants it. Right now with economy the way it is, our priority is giving back to the customer. That isn’t in visual effect."
By visual effect, St. Clair means not making his sports book appear as a wall of large screen TV’s. Instead, there is plenty of room for seating, an adjacent bar and deli restaurant and plenty of comp packages for the customers.
"You are not hitting elbows here," St. Clair said. "There are extra wide seats so everyone is comfortable. The only thing negative about our deli is we give customers too much food. We have six wallboards for the horse races at Cannery, but just two here. We take the things we did at both Cannery and Rampart and improve upon them."
Eastside Cannery prides itself for having among the most liberal comps in town.
"We are about 2-1 better than anyone in town in race comps," St. Clair said. "For a $30 bet you get one point, which equals $1. There are a lot of places that give you a point for less than $30, but that point doesn’t equal a $1 worth of goods like it does here."
St. Clair also offers race bettors more than just the Daily Racing Form. The Eastside Cannery provides additional information along with drink tickets.
"We want people to experience our great atmosphere and come back," St. Clair said. "By pumping all that money into the video effect, you have to make all that money back through reduced giveaways. Here, we are about the giveaways."
Eastside Cannery is close by Sam’s Town, a staple venue on the Boulder Strip for the past 30 years. However, St. Clair said that Eastside was built with the intention of gaining its own clients and not taking patrons away from the neighboring Boulder sites.
"Our book satisfies a need out here," St. Clair said. "A very successful book must have the right scheme. Building an Aliante type casino on the Boulder Highway would look out of place. We wanted to build the best product we can put on the floor."
There is a staff of 10 writers in the book, each working a 40-hour week as St. Clair calls, "getting maximum out of writers while staying within what the company wants to make a profit."
Despite the economic crunch, St. Clair said the first six months at the Eastside were solid.
"Wonderful, really," he said. "We had a great first season of football even with the economy down. It’s hard for all books with customers not having that extra money to spend. We understand that and have tried through giveaways and comps to make things better."
As for the next six months, St. Clair plans more of the same.
"We have by far the best rooms on the Boulder Strip," he said. "It’s a beautiful hotel that was thought out well. The 450-square foot rooms are larger than any other place out here and the starting price of $29.95 for locals during the week is terrific. Sure, I would like to see the economy pick up, but we have enough power to pay the bills."