Casino betting on new games

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Casinos know a thing or two about competition. So when Lucky Chances approached Colma about bringing in new card games to the casino, Town Council members listened.

The council unanimously approved the new games — already played in casinos around the state — on Feb. 21; the casino awaits the state’s Division of Gambling Control to accept its application for the games.

The four card games — Lucky Pan 9, 21st Century Baccarat, California three-card poker and Eazy Poker — are expected to help the casino, which is still recovering from a year of $200 wagering limits, stay competitive in the industry, casino officials said.

Colma officials said they hoped the new games and now unlimited wagering limits at the casino would help return its revenue from gamblers back to the days when it brought in roughly one-third of the sleepy town’s $12 million budget. The casino’s taxes help pay for some of the perks of living in Colma, such as free cable and citywide holiday functions.

The casino essentially wants to have these bullets in its holster should the market begin to demand the games, spokeswoman Tiffany Rystrom said.

“If we don’t have them approved and the market wants them, there’s a lag time there,” Rystrom said. “Basically, Lucky Chances needs to make sure that what other casinos offer we can also offer, so we can remain competitive.”

The primary concerns of card rooms is the “unequal opportunities” given to Indian tribes and the threat of Indian gaming establishing itself in the Bay Area, said Alan Titus, a spokesman for Artichoke Joe’s Casino in San Bruno.

Lucky Chances offers a variety of games, including Pai Gow, Vegas-style Blackjack, Texas Hold ’em and Omaha Hi/Lo. When it opened in 1998, it featured unlimited wagering, but in December 2005, California’s Division of Gambling Control said the casino had to abide by the $200 limits established in a 1996 statewide moratorium on expanded gambling.

A new law that went into effect at the start of this year allows city councils or boards of supervisors to determine wagering limits, and initial returns show that revenues from the casino are beginning to increase.

For January 2007, there was an 18 percent increase in receipts over January 2006, a month that was 27 below January 2005, City Manager Diane McGrath said. The 18 percent increase brought in more than $300,000 for the city, she said.

“We’re hopefully bouncing back, but we don’t know yet,” McGrath said. “It’ll be three to four months, so by June we’ll have a pretty good trend.”

dsmith@examiner.com

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