Hialeah Park celebrates 3 years as a casino

Hialeah Park has tried to keep its historical look, while adding slots, poker and a sports restaurant/simulcasting area in the past three years.
Hialeah Park has tried to keep its historical look, while adding slots, poker and a sports restaurant/simulcasting area in the past three years.

Hialeah Park started late in the Miami-Dade casino game, but management and patrons have more than made up for it in the past three years.

The casino, part of the historic 200-acre property, acts somewhat as a city hub, with an adjacent building hosting quinces parties and other celebrations and Hialeah Park booking music, boxing matches and special events to accompany the casino, horse racing and new sports bar/simulcast center.

The idea of an entertainment complex fulfills the vision owner John Brunetti Sr. says he had about 10 years ago when he began mapping out the conversion from shuttered racetrack to casino.

“We have tried to encourage many different uses for the property, yet maintain the history and mystique of Hialeah Park,” he said. Eventually he’d like to add a hotel and a shopping mall.

Hialeah Park will celebrate the third anniversary of its casino opening with a three-day celebration beginning Friday Aug. 19, featuring Willy Chirino.

Brunetti bought the track in 1977 and closed it in 2001, saying there was too much horse racing competition. Hialeah Park was not one of the casinos state voters had in mind when first the state, then Miami-Dade County, approved casinos. It took a legislative approval and challenges all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court for Hialeah to open.

Los 3 De La Habana takes the stage of the outdoor Fountain Terrace for a free show at 9 p.m. Friday. Chirino and Johnny Ventura perform at 9 p.m. Saturday on the Amphitheatre stage. Those tickets are $25 for reserved grandstand, $20 for lower level general admission via tickets.ticketforce.com or the Hialeah Park box office. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday is the Jumpin Jack Open Car & Truck Show in the paddock gardens.

Go to HialeahPark.com.

Tilly, Phelps and Rio

Actress Jennifer Tilly returns for the fourth annual Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, although longtime boyfriend and poker pro Phil Laak is not accompanying her.

“He’s in Brazil, rooting for Michael Phelps,” Tilly said. Phelps is an avid poker player, and Laak is among the swimmer’s friends.

Tilly, a 1994 Academy Award nominee for her role in Woody Allen's “Bullets Over Broadway,” has played each of the prior three years of the SHRPO. She won the 2005 World Series of Poker Ladies Event.

Tilly is known for wearing low-cut dresses when the TV cameras are taping, which they are this week: Poker Night in America also is filming some shows.

“I like to make myself look nice. It comes from being an aging starlet,” said Tilly, 57.

Players can enter the main event, which guarantees $5 million in total prize money, at noon Saturday. Buy-in is $5,250.

A charity event is at 7 p.m. Friday, benefiting the Maximum Hope Foundation. Entry is $300.

Slot revenues mixed

All four Miami-Dade casinos improved their slot revenues from last fiscal year. Magic City Casino again led the way, making $83.5 million for the year ending June 30, up almost $3 million from 2014-15. Calder improved $1 million to $74 million, followed by Hialeah Park ($68 million) and Casino Miami ($61 million), both of which took in about $4 million more than last year.

The Isle Casino in Pompano Beach continues to be South Florida’s leader, although it dropped more than $2 million, to $143 million. Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino again barely held its lead over Hallandale Beach rival Mardi Gras. Each casino is down about $1 million from last year, with Gulfstream earning $48 million and Mardi Gras $46.8. Both likely were dinged by the re-opening of The Casino @ Dania Beach, although the remodeled jai-alai fronton lags way back ($11 million).

Slots are where the money’s at. While South Florida slot revenues were at $537 million combined, the area’s poker rooms took in “only” $41 million.

The Seminole casinos aren’t required to reveal their slot revenues, although overall their seven casinos in Florida took in about $2.2 billion with slots, table games and poker. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood makes as much as all the South Florida pari-mutuels combined. The Miccosukee tribe, which runs a casino in west Miami-Dade, has no agreement with the state, so its revenue figures are secret.

Coming up

▪ MadTV comic star Anjelah Johnson performs at 8 p.m. Friday at the Casino @ Dania Beach and at 9 p.m. Saturday at Magic City Casino. Johnson, a former Oakland Raiders cheerleader, is known for her dislikeable Bon Qui Qui character, who works as a disgruntled fast-food clerk. Tickets start at $30. Go to casinodaniabeach.com or magicCityCasino.com.

▪ Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach show classic Elvis Presley movies at 8 p.m. Tuesdays. Tickets are $8, or free for those who earn at least 10 slot points. Aug. 17 is “Viva Las Vegas,” Aug. 24 is “Follow That Dream” and Aug. 31 is “Jailhouse Rock.”

▪ Havana-born Carlos Manuel sings at Casino Miami in a free show at 9 p.m. Saturday. The casino is giving away $100,000 in cash and free play from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays in August.

▪ At Calder Casino, slot players 55 and older receive $10 free play with 20 points earned on Tuesdays. The promotion is ongoing.

Twitter: @NickSortal