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Santa Fe on express course to race mecca

Apr 22, 2003 5:38 AM

What does one do with $3.5 million in capital? In the case of Santa Fe Station, expand.

"We want to concentrate on getting people out here to see what a great place this is," said Scott Kreeger, vice president and general manager and the hotel/casino located just past the intersection of Smoke Ranch and N. Rancho Drive.

"Our desire is not to target others, but to concentrate on running our operation," Kreeger said. "If we take care of our environment and customer service, things will be fine."

Foremost on the upgrading scale is the expansion of the entire race and sports area, catering more to the race player. There will be 60 and 41-inch plasma television, large projection screens, a private VIP area, monitors, leather sets and, of course, Larry.

"Larry (Weiss) was brought in as director of race and sports because his background is horse racing," Kreeger said. "It was essential to have someone who really knows and understands racing because that’s the force behind this entire expansion."

The improvements will be happening fast since management is pointing to everything being ready by May 3, the day of the Kentucky Derby.

"No other book in town will be more technologically advanced," said Weiss, a 15-year resident of Las Vegas and yet another New York transplant who was groomed in the business by the legendary Jimmy Vaccaro.

"I was a ticket writer and just progressed," said Weiss, who attraction to race and sports came as a player. "This will be a great place to hang out and watch games. Plus, we are coupling the expansion around the sports bar which should create a lot of energy in the room."

While the focus is on the race and sports book, Santa Fe is also placing a greater emphasis on blackjack and adding several first-class restaurants.

"We are holding a major $100,000 blackjack event over the next few weeks in addition to our Mardi Gras nights on Fridays and Saturdays that should be a lot of fun for our customers and offers greater opportunities for winning," said Steve Przybocki, Santa Fe’s director of casino operations. "We have TVs at every table and rewards for hitting blackjacks. Our emphasis is on fun and to know people on a first-name basis."

Santa Fe management targeted blackjack because it’s a table game people like to play, but feel intimidated about.

"We, as pit bosses, especially wanted to make blackjack friendly and approachable," Przybocki said. "A lot of newer players don’t want to go to the table, fearing they will make a mistake. That fear inspired Mardi Gras nights. Intimidation doesn’t happen in a party atmosphere. We have TVs, play music, dress our deals in green vests, hats and beeds. And, giving $25 bet coupons for the first blackjack each hour I think is serving its purpose."

Santa Fe also has plenty of $5 tables on prime time nights, a rarity in Las Vegas casinos. Not to mention Sabretts hot dogs in the race and sports book.

"We have that, and Louie Louie for two hours of sheer entertainment for those who want to party away from the tables," Kreeger said.

While a sister property of Texas Station, Santa Fe has the advantage of being located in one of the more remote areas of the city.

"We like having individuality," Kreeger said. "We are in a region of our own with no real competition so there is room for us to really make a statement in this business. Santa Fe was purchased two years ago knowing urban sprawl had to get out here. It’s been under construction the whole time, but people will be blown away at how we look now."

Marketing director Carol Thompson likes to refer to Santa Fe as "a full service entertainment resort."

"We have a wide mix of people, not necessarily all gaming," she said. "We want a younger crowd. That’s why there’s an ice arena, bowling, restaurants and an easy access parking place right next to race and sports. We are one place that doesn’t mind giving out comps. We are all about treating the customer right."