Associated Press Examines Las Vegas Poker Room Closures
Poker in a “brick and mortar” casino has always had a difficult history. With the players shuttling the chips – and the money – amongst each other, the casinos have been left pulling the “rake” in an attempt to make some money to provide for floor staff, dealers and the like. Unfortunately, this has led to the closure of some poker rooms in casinos across the country.
The Associated Press’ Hannah Dreier examined this issue in an article yesterday entitled “As Trend Wanes, Vegas Casinos Fold on Poker Rooms.” Dreier begins her diatribe by discussing the Tropicana, which opened its poker room last April and promised it would be the “coolest in town” in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip. That same day, unfortunately, was “Black Friday,” the assault by the federal government on the three largest online poker sites in the world. Dreier then goes on to state that in September 2012, the Tropicana closed down their efforts at poker in Sin City due to a lack of players.
Dreier points out the closure of other rooms in the city of Las Vegas over the past two years – Ellis Island (which closed their room two months after opening it in 2012), Silverton Casino, Aliante Casino & Hotel and Fitzgerald’s all shuttered their poker rooms over the last twelve months, while the Gold Coast, the Plaza and Tuscany shut down their operations in 2011 – and attempts to draw the parallel between the crackdown against online poker and the resulting shutdowns of poker rooms in Vegas and elsewhere. There are a few problems with that reasoning, however.
When the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was signed into law in 2006, Dreier points out how the numbers at the World Series of Poker Championship Event plummeted (from a high of 8773 players in 2006 to 6358 in 2007). Citing this as an indication of poker’s “downfall,” Dreier fails to take into account the decrease caused by the UIGEA and the pullout of online poker rooms such as PartyPoker that funneled players to the Championship Event. Dreier says that, since 2006, the WSOP Championship Event has “only” cracked the 7000 mark once since then; true, but the numbers from 2007-2012 still have exceeded those set in 2005 in the middle of the “poker boom.”
In examining the closures, Dreier does take a passing look at what could be the true issue regarding these closures in Las Vegas and other casinos across the country. While many places added rooms, they only did so as token measures; the smaller, “mom and pop” casinos only would add less-than ten table rooms to provide for their poker playing clientele. This does not allow a poker room to be profitable as size is critical to success for poker rooms.
Across the Strip, there are plenty of poker palaces that are constantly stuffed with players. The Bellagio – with its swanky backdrop and its high stakes “Bobby’s Room” – remains popular with players of all bankrolls. Caesars Palace, the Venetian (which recently expanded its poker room) and the Mirage (among others) consistently are able to fill their locations with their larger room offerings. This is cited, albeit in passing, by Dreier in speaking with Venetian poker room manager and Women in Poker Hall of Famer Kathy Raymond.
“You really need volume to operate a successful poker room,” Dreier quotes Raymond as saying. “The overhead can’t be absorbed by just a few tables.” Raymond also states to Dreier that there isn’t any issue with a decline in poker’s popularity, saying, “The love people have for poker hasn’t subsided. It may be a part of the economic environment, but the interest hasn’t subsided at all.”
The love of the game of poker hasn’t gone away, even though some younger players have lost the training ground they once had online. The trend in Las Vegas regarding poker rooms is, quite honestly, one that happens in the business world constantly. Larger operations that can provide more for their customers will normally push out (close) those smaller, “mom and pop” companies that can’t keep up. Dreier, while attempting to paint poker’s “demise,” isn’t taking a full look at the picture; poker is doing well overall…it would take a little more than some room closures to end America’s 100-plus year love affair with its true national pastime.
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