Natural disaster recovery brings out the best in people, we like to think. Neighbors work together to clear fallen trees. Rival companies team up to help the unfortunate.
Then there’s the casino business: Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino is pursuing slot players from neighboring casinos that couldn’t reopen after Hurricane Irma. Gulfstream is advertising that it will honor coupons for free slot play that rival Mardi Gras Casino routinely mails to its top players. A mini-tornado flooded Mardi Gras, one mile to the north of Gulfstream. The casino is closed indefinitely.
Mardi Gras President Dan Adkins says clean competition is one thing, but courting a foe’s top patrons after Hurricane Irma is going too far.
“It is sad and pathetic, but not surprising,” Adkins said. “But here at Mardi Gras we have a little friend named Karma. When we rise from the ashes, the grandeur of Mardi Gras, along with Karma, will more than overcome these senseless, childish opportunists.”
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Gulfstream Park also honored free play vouchers for Calder players, but rescinded the deal once the Miami Gardens casino reopened Friday. Calder Director of Marketing Matt Harper declined comment.
Gulfstream Park is simply providing players a nearby venue, assistant GM Ernie Dellaverson says. The free-play offer was capped at $250.
“We’re just doing something that’s been done since the beginning of casino marketing,” he says. “If the roles were reversed, I’d expect them to do it.”
Casinos routinely try to court players from the competition. Adkins notes that he has seen shuttle buses from rival casinos in his parking lot, and he himself placed a large electronic advertising sign one block away from rival Casino @ Dania Beach during its grand opening last year. Dellaverson, on board at Gulfstream for only 10 months, wasn’t around for that, but did note Gulfstream tried to “tastefully” promote its Irma offer.
“It’s about helping the players, and I haven’t heard a complaint so far,” Dellaverson says.
The Casino @ Dania Beach, meanwhile, is welcoming Mardi Gras players, but with no special incentives, CEO Scott Savin says.
“We welcome them until Mardi Gras reopens but will offer the same benefits we are currently offering all players,” Savin says. “We trust they will like our hospitality and our environment and perhaps they will check out the return of live jai-alai.”
Ken Adams, founder of the annual Nevada Gaming Almanac, says rivals made offers to casinos displaced during the 1997 floods in Reno, Nevada, and in 2005, with Hurricane Katrina.
“Any advantage you can get... it’s the nature of the business,” Adams says. “Was it fair when Wal-Mart came into small towns and displaced local businesses?”
The casinos that lost players after those disasters never fully recovered, he notes.
Gulfstream and Mardi Gras have a rivalry that only Dolphins and Jets fans can comprehend. When Mardi Gras asked the state to permit “decoupling” — an end to the requirement for greyhound racing on the property to keep the slots spinning — Gulfstream representatives spoke up, not out of support for dog racing but to complain that the drag of the added expense of dog racing keeps Mardi Gras from gaining a competitive advantage. Kind of like “misery loves company.”
And Adkins has taken his shots at Gulfstream Park, which has expanded in recent years under billionaire owner Frank Stronach, a horse-racing devotee. Stronach has spent money on a shopping mall and restaurants, erected a 130-ton statue of the mythical winged horse Pegasus and muscled out Calder to dominate the horse-racing market, all of which prompted Adkins to call Gulfstream “a billionaire’s hobby.”
Of the eight horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons with slots in South Florida, the pair battle for sixth place. Mardi Gras won last year, collecting $51 million to Gulfstream Park’s $50 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. But considering all the amenities Gulfstream Park has, Adkins considers that a big win, and Gulfstream’s latest move has fired him up even more.
“It’s so sad when you have a community that’s battered and someone feels like now’s the time to be an opportunist,” he says. “It’s indicative of their nature and that’s OK with me.
“When we reopen, we’re going to go back to kicking their ass.”
SUBHED: Mardi Gras damage
The poker room at Mardi Gras Casino could reopen within two weeks, but the slots area suffered water damage and will take longer, Adkins said.
The cleanup crew unplugged most of the slots and pushed them into a corner, then ripped out the carpet, said Adkins, who gave a brief tour Monday afternoon.
A soundproof barrier will be erected between the poker room and the slot floor, which will be renovated in stages, he said. That floor will be re-carpeted, resealed, repainted and re-drywalled, said Adkins, who can’t set a timetable, but used the word “months.”
SUBHED: Poker at Hard Rock
The World Series of Poker Circuit Series makes its first-ever stop at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The first of 14 events begins Thursday with a tournament that guarantees $500,000 in prize money. Entry is $580.
The main event, which costs $1,675, runs Sept. 29-Oct. 2. For the high rollers, a $3,250 buy-in tournament is Oct. 1.
The WSOP-C is a linked to the WSOP played every year in Las Vegas and televised on ESPN. There are 26 stops across the country, including one at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek Feb. 8-19, 2018. Go to WSOP.com.
SUBHED: Coming up
▪ Jai-alai has returned to the Casino @ Dania Beach. Sessions are at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.
▪ Dairon Vasquez, a Cuban-born comedian known for videos that poke fun at Latin culture, performs at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Magic City Casino. Tickets are $20-$40 at MagicCityCasino.com
▪ Miccosukee Resort & Gaming marks American Indian Day Saturday with hourly giveaways of $500 cash from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The prize at 10 p.m. is $1,000. The property also will have arts and crafts, carnival rides, airboat rides, water slides and alligator wrestling shows from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
▪ Because of Hurricane Irma, Calder Casino’s unfortunately named “Category 5” $10,000 must-pay jackpot has been rescheduled for Monday. Guests pick their numbers in this lotto-style promotion every Monday for drawings at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. If no one matches all five numbers, the $10,000 will be given away via drawing shortly after 9 p.m.
▪ A big weekend of entertainment at Hialeah Park, rescheduled to this weekend from a weather postponement in August, is again postponed. Gente De Zona had been set to perform, as well as Jose Fajardo Jr. and Tito Puente Jr.
▪ Resorts World Bimini reported no major structural damage to its property, although the heavy storm surge will require some time to re-open the marina. The casino-hotel property is currently closed but will re-open on Sept. 27.
Twitter: @NickSortal; Email NickSortal@BellSouth.net