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Poker booms in Vegas and on the track

Poker booms in Vegas and on the track 0001

The poker boom in the US continues its upward swing, thanks to television coverage and online poker sites. Here are two recent proofs of it:

1. While slot machines and blackjack still rank as the most popular games in Las Vegas, casinos are tearing out blackjack tables and replacing them with poker tables.

Revenue from poker grew 18 percent last year, according to the Nevada Gaming Control Board. But revenue from slot machines grew just 3.3 percent and blackjack revenue grew 1.4 percent.

2. At Canterbury Racetrack & Card Club near Minneapolis, cards now bring in more revenue than horse racing, and poker income is up 50 percent from a year ago.

The popularity of poker has surprised Randy Sampson, president of Canterbury, but he's not complaining. Canterbury takes a "rake" of up to $4 from each poker pot in the card club. Those $4 chunks added up to $7.65 million in the six months ended June 30, with 15 percent of that sum going into the racetrack's purse fund and a breeders' trust fund.

"We're horse-racing people. Our focus is always going to be horse racing," Sampson said. "But (poker) has been a tremendously helpful vehicle in subsidizing and improving the racing operation.

"There's a little bit of an awkward feeling to the card club being more than half of our revenue and driving the growth of the company," he said. "But in the end, they work well together."

Sebastian Sinclair, president of Christiansen Capital Advisers, a Maine-based consulting and research firm serving the gambling industry, says: "Games tend to follow generations. It's like after World War II - the GIs came home and they played craps. They learned it in the service, and it had a 20-year run.

"I think a lot of what you're seeing in the rising popularity of poker is Generation X. They're getting into their 30s, they have discretionary income, and poker has become a spectator sport."

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