Demonstrating the demand for the game in the Sunshine State, a Florida poker room that is the largest in the state opened up on Thursday.
According to reports from several Florida sources, the parking lot of the Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville was jammed to its capacity for the opening of Best Bet Jacksonville, which – as soon as the doors opened yesterday morning – became the largest poker room in the state. The 70 table poker room offers the usual fare for poker players – Texas Hold’em and Seven Card Stud look to be the games of choice – but also has to provide another feature for patrons to allow it to be opened.
The new poker outlet is unique in that it isn’t tied to a racetrack or one of the Indian casinos in the state. By law, a Florida poker room not a part of an Indian casino has to either be located at a greyhound or horse racing facility or offer simulcast wagering. Rod Sullivan, a professor with the Florida Coastal School of Law, explained how Best Bet Jacksonville was able to open to FirstCoastNews.com.
“(The law) was drafted to apply to a few number of pari-mutuel license holders and nobody else,” Sullivan explained. “What they have to do is offer a certain number of races on 140 days out of the year. If they have 140 racing days that they’re simulcasting, then they’re legal.”
The 144,000 square foot building was ready for action on Thursday morning and seems to have been popular with both the players and other businesses located within the mall. “(The poker room) will bring some liveliness and excitement,” an employee at a beauty supply store told WTEV-TV Jacksonville. “(The poker room) will bring in more people to the mall that may not have been here before.”
Players who saw the new establishment also voiced their satisfaction. “I just had to come out and see the facility,” Anthony Carswell stated to News4Jax.com. “Gorgeous, just gorgeous.”
The poker room manager, Deborah Giardina, pointed out several of the advantages to the new facility. “This is providing a place to play for the northern part of Jacksonville that has not been available before,” she said to News4Jax.com. “We will be bringing a lot of revenue into this particular community that will spill over to the surrounding businesses, gas stations, hotels and restaurants.”
Best Bet Jacksonville will also provide needed jobs for the Jacksonville community. Giardina says the poker room will employ 200 people, with an average salary of $50,000 per year. This is in an area where the unemployment rate for January was reported to be at 9.4%.
The poker room was the subject of some disagreement among city leaders worried about an increase in crime for the mall. Giardina dismissed these concerns, however, stating, “We have cameras everywhere and our parking lot is lit up like it is broad daylight. We also have a high number of security personnel.”
Best Bet Jacksonville will get its first serious test as to how popular it will be in late April. The World Poker Tour is scheduled to have one of its Regional tournaments, the WPT Jacksonville Best Bet Open, at the location beginning on April 27 and ending May 2. The $5000 tournament – and the size of the new facility – could draw some of the best poker players in the world in pursuit of a prestigious WPT title.
For those poker players looking for some action in Florida, Best Bet Jacksonville may be the answer to what they are seeking. The poker room is open 24 hours a day from Friday to Sunday and 10AM to 4AM on Mondays through Thursdays.