Gaughan comes racing from the gate at South Point

Jul 31, 2012 3:00 AM


Leave it to Michael Gaughan to come up with innovative ideas to improve the casino experience.

The idea of virtual horse racing isn’t new – in fact, it was previewed at past Global Gaming Expos in Las Vegas – but actually seeing one used in a casino is.

“Having a bugler give the call to post gives this a true racing-like atmosphere,” said Tom Mikovits, director of marketing for South Point Hotel Casino & Spa. “Bally came to us with this technology and we were excited to implement it.”

There were four races in all last Thursday when the South Point Stakes was officially started. Races occurred at 4, 6, 8 and 10 p.m., with a share of a $30,000 prize pool – $7,500 per race.

“Right now we are doing it this week and two other weeks,” Mikovits said. “People just have to qualify by earning 25 points within two hours of each race.”

We happened to catch the featured 6 p.m., second race, complete with bugler, noted track announcer Frank Miramahdi and an interested customer base that watched and wagered on the result seen at all 2,563 slot machines in the casino. (For all you “conspiracy theorists,” the 6 won at 6.)

“Michael Gaughan always likes to keep things simple so we will get feedback from our guests and see what happens,” Mikovits said. People think of Michael as an old school guy, but he was the first to launch a successful players club, the first to have an entire ticket-in, ticket-out casino floor and now the first to utilize this Bally virtual horse race.”

Bringing in Miramahdi, who was the track announcer at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., was not only a nice touch but showed how serious South Point is about its new racing game.

“I am a fan of the South Point to begin with so when they called with this assignment I was happy to do it,” said Miramahdi, who is currently employed at the Sonoma County (Calif.) Fair in Santa Rosa. “Anytime you can promote any aspect of racing, even if it’s a slot machine, is exciting for me.”

Not to beat a dead horse, but horse racing has seen its share of detractors so any attempt to give it a boost is a welcome sight, especially in Las Vegas.

“There is an excitement level when people are cheering the real deal of horse racing that is unmatched in other sports,” Miramahdi said. “Even in a virtual race you are seeing the sport’s competitive nature.”

Watching the race on screen, the graphics are incredibly realistic. It’s not real horse racing or personally being at the track but, like the old style mechanical racing game at the “D” downtown resort that was recently featured in GT, there is an enjoyment and charm that attracts players.

“We’re far behind in marketing,” Miramahdi said. “South Point is setting an example of how to create excitement. Horse racing needs to dig a little deeper in promoting. This is a brilliant idea that I was glad to be a part of.”