Speedway sweetens the NLV poker pot

Jun 15, 2004 6:16 AM

Neighboring casinos probably aren’t losing any sleep over it but there is a new poker game in North Las Vegas.

And while the Speedway Casino isn’t ready to go "all-in" against the likes of the Golden Nugget’s four dozen tables, Speedway officials feel that it helps them march to the beat of their own drummer.

"We have to find our own niche," says Paul Halverson, the table games manager at the Speedway, which opened the poker area with two tables earlier this month. "We felt we had a hot dog with no bun. Now we have the bun."

The Speedway, a small casino on Civic Center Drive at Cheyenne Road, is joined at the hip with a Ramada Inn, with both properties owned by Mountaineer Gaming which, according to Halverson, pays a franchise fee for the right to use the Ramada sign.

"We get a lot of truckers," Halverson said. "We cater to truckers (who were) one of the things we went after when we opened" in October of 1999.

Nonetheless, he estimates that 75 percent of the gamblers at the Speedway are locals with most being blue collar, working class players who might be attracted by the poker table’s modest fee structure.

For instance, the Speedway in its seven card stud game, offers $1 to $5 limit with a $20 buy-in and with a $3 maximum rake or 10 percent of the pot up to $3. Its hold ’em game has $2 and $4 limits also with a $20 buy-in as well.

Halverson said action at the poker tables was "sporadic" when play first started but by the middle of last week, some games were lasting until 5 a.m. Poker play at the Speedway starts at noon. He said he expects the games to be drawing a crowd of about 30 to 50 regular players within three months.

"Everybody else is doing it," Halverson said about the opening of poker rooms around Las Vegas. "We felt it was time to do it."

Dan Camillo, the director of internal security, said he considers the Cannery and Texas Station to be the Speedway’s main competition. However, he added that "there’s enough business to go around."

Meanwhile, at the nearby Cannery, Bob Peckinpaugh, the poker room manager, said he hasn’t noticed any difference in the volume of play in his room since the Speedway opened its tables. "I don’t have a crystal ball but I don’t think (the Speedway tables) are going to have a large impact (on the Cannery)," Peckinpaugh said.

Diana Smith, the day shift supervisor of the poker room at Texas Station, said they’ve "actually had an increase" in the number of poker players in recent weeks, adding that’s what usually happens after the World Series of Poker ends.

Smith said Texas Station draws a lot of poker players from Summerlin and northwest Las Vegas, who most likely wouldn’t want to travel the added distance to the Speedway casino.

To help lure those customers to the Speedway, Halverson said the poker room is planning a number of promotions including one in which gamblers who play for three hours are offered a prime rib dinner on the house. Another promotion will involve the mailing of coupons by zip code to players who can exchange them to get a break on the buy-in fees.

"People don’t know who we are," Halverson said. "This is where the party starts."