Poker players return to Mardi Gras after months-long storm cleanup

Shane Battier and Alonzo Mourning joined other athletes and celebrities in a poker tournament to benefit South Florida middle-school children.
Shane Battier and Alonzo Mourning joined other athletes and celebrities in a poker tournament to benefit South Florida middle-school children.

They came back.

When Hurricane Irma broke through the roof and flooded everything at Mardi Gras Casino on Sept. 10, gambling industry experts suggested that patrons would flock to neighboring casinos — and would stay away even if the closed Hallandale Beach property reopened.

But revenue figures recently released by the state show otherwise. The casino’s Big Easy Poker room garnered $453,511 in revenues since reopening Dec. 1, outpacing Gulfstream Park to the south ($386,943) and the Casino @ Dania Beach to the north ($163,931). (Poker rooms make money by pulling $1 to $5 from each pot won.) Gulfstream and Dania figures were down about 25 percent from the previous month, when Mardi Gras was closed.

The numbers show what some might intuitively think: Players pick the poker room based on the people; a casino card room, after a while, takes on the vibe of a very large game in someone’s house.

“I’m a very loyal person,” said Andy Kay, of Hallandale Beach. “I’ve always been treated well here, so I’ll keep coming back.

“You don’t mind losing if you’re having fun.”

Andy Kay of Hallandale Beach was among the regulars who returned to play poker at Mardi Gras Casino’s Big Easy poker room. Nick Sortal

Kay said he played elsewhere when Mardi Gras was closed, but was eager to see the many acquaintances he has made playing the past five years or more at Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras’ poker action also is newsworthy because the slots portion of the casino is still closed because of the storm. That means visits by couples — the wife plays slots, the husband plays poker — still aren’t viable, and won’t be for another couple of months, officials say.

Meanwhile, Mardi Gras Casino made news last week when The Miami Herald reported that developer Jeffrey Soffer was buying the property. Soffer, who also owns the Fontainebleau Resort and the Aventura Mall, had wanted the state to approve hotel-resort casinos, but the state Legislature is far, far away from doing anything like that. So my take is that he just has an interest in the casino business, and the Mardi Gras property, which takes up several blocks west of Federal Highway, is a good spot. And if the Legislature approves laws that benefit the business, so much the better.

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Columnist Nick Sortal AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

The casino is one of several that had been owned by Hartman and Tyner Inc. But Tyner died in 2015, and bad blood has ensued. So the company is selling the casino here and their facility in West Virginia.


Talk about your big-time poker game: former Miami Heat players Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Alonzo Mourning and Eddie Jones, former Marlins catcher Charles Johnson, and former Dolphins Nat Moore, Dwight Stephenson and O.J. McDuffie went at it in a charity event that raised more than $700,000 to help middle-school youth.

The money from the tournament, held Sunday at Nobu Miami, went to After-School All-Stars, South Florida.

Coming up

▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino gives away $50,000 in free slot play from 6-10:30 p.m. Thursday. Ten Seminole Wild Card Elite players will win $500 in free play every 30 minutes. The Hard Rock also has $500 hot seats in January. A random poker player will be picked hourly from 1:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Sundays to win $500.

▪ Hialeah Park has one of its biggest poker promotions of the month on Thursday, giving away $1,500 hourly from 2-10 p.m. The loot goes out in a rotation of every 30 minutes ($750 per high hand) and 20 minutes ($500).

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is running a Super Bowl version of the football squares game. Players can pick a square on the virtual 10-by-10 grid between noon and 8 p.m. The numbers 0 to 9 will then be randomly assigned to the columns and rows. Square winners during the Feb. 4 Super Bowl will win up to $2,500 in free play.

▪ Australian pop rock band Air Supply performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Magic City Amphitheater. Songs include “All Out of Love,” “Here I Am,” “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” and “The Power of Love.” Tickets start at $20 at magiccitycasino.com.

▪ Calder Casino gives away up to $2,500 in free play from 5-9 p.m. Saturdays. Two winners will be chosen every 30 minutes. Patrons receive entries into the drawing with every 10 slot points they earn.