Las Vegas Review-Journal: Cantor Gaming debuts new sports book at the Palms

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By Chris Sieroty
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Posted: May 4, 2012 | 2:55 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2012 | 3:28 p.m.

Cantor Gaming on Friday opened its sixth owned-and-operated race and sports book in Las Vegas, a luxury facility at the Palms.

The high-end Palms venue is also the first Cantor sports book to include a poker room – a marriage that makes financial sense, according to Lee Amaitis, president and CEO of Cantor Gaming.

“We saw a direct correlation between people who play poker and people who play sports,” Amaitis said. “I though the opportunity for us to acquire the poker business of the Palms fit into this beautiful environment. We are going to jumpstart a new wave of how people want to play poker.”

Amaitis described the poker operations as a “laboratory” for company research. He said it “remains to be seen” if Cantor moves forward with plans for poker rooms at its other venues, which include M Resort and The Venetian.

At the Palms, there are effectively two Cantor poker rooms – a large open space with seven poker tables and a glass-enclosure with a single table for high-limit games.

The new sports book took three months to build, Amaitis said. The 9,840-square-foot space is decorated with Cantor’s trademark red leather furniture. It features marble floors and hand-stitched leather walls as well as 1,290 square-feet of high-definition TVs and 93 carrels for bettors.

Amaitis described the combination of poker and sports wagering as a “milestone for Cantor to achieve success in Nevada.”

The Palms sports book is the latest project for Cantor, which owns betting shops at M Resort, Tropicana Las Vegas, Hard Rock Hotel, The Venetian and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. It operates the book at the Palazzo.

In addition, Cantor built a new bar, Tonic, to be operated the Palms adjacent to the entrance of the sports book.

“It’s a state-of-the-art sports book with a poker room,” said Richard Strafella, vice president of casino operations at the Palms. “It takes it to a whole new level. Poker and sports wagering get along very well together.”

Strafella said other renovations to the 10-year-old resort include remodeled rooms, new bars in the casino and updated clubs. About $3 million in new slot machines have already been placed on the casino floor, along with an upgraded pool area, he said.

Strafella declined to discuss costs. The hotel-casino is owned by Leonard Green & Partners L.P. and TPG Capital, which purchased the property’s outstanding $459 million loan last year.

The property was developed by George Maloof and his family, who now hold a 2 percent ownership stake with an option to buy an additional 7.5 percent share.

Amaitis told the Review-Journal in an interview prior to the sports book’s opening that he was confident in the future of gambling in Nevada, and most importantly the growth of the legal sports betting industry.

“Like anything else in this town if you are investing in the comeback of Las Vegas, you are not really investing in the margin business of sports wagering, but you are investing in the margin business of entertainment and the uptick of gaming again once it comes on board,” Amaitis said.

Gaming in Nevada is a $10 billion-a-year industry, while race and sports books take home $150 million annually.

“You have to believe – that’s why we are here – that $150 million will become a much bigger number,” he said. “I think in the short time we’ve been operating here … we have proven to the state that the handle on sports wagering is (not) where it should be.”

Amaitis said he was confident the Nevada sports betting handle would rise from just under $3 billion last year to $5 billion in the next few years.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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