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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Pokerdraw on act

"It just never paid to invest in poker because the return was limited," said Paul Girvan, director of the Innovation Group, a Louisiana consulting firm. "Now what's been discovered is, with its popularity, poker has the ability to draw people into the casino that might not otherwise be there."

If a basement poker player visits a casino, spends three hours at a table while his wife plays the slots, has dinner and leaves, poker has done its job. If he tries other games or gets a hotel room, even better.

Not everyone buys into that strategy.

Mohegan Sun, just a few miles from Foxwoods, closed its poker room 18 months ago and filled it with slots. Today, with fewer machines, its slot revenue regularly exceeds Foxwoods and its chief executive says he has no regrets.

But poker rooms are opening faster than they're closing. Twenty-five Nevada casinos have joined the game in just over two years.

At the Imperial Palace, executives aren't even pitching their new poker room to the people who play big pots and make more money for the house. Their low-stakes games attract tourists and beginners and create brand loyalty.

"If you offer that amenity, you will increase your appeal to a broader customer base," said David Strow, spokesman for Harrah's Entertainment, which recently purchased the rights to the World Series of Poker. "Many of them are not going to stop just at poker. You'll see an indirect increase in casino revenues overall."