Next month, the largest gambling emporium in Sacramento County will open in a long-dormant shopping center on Antelope Road off I-80 in Citrus Heights.
Kings Casino LLC of San Diego has invested $15 million in the Stones Gambling Hall, a double-barreled complex with two card rooms and a Wild West flair built around a 180-seat bar and restaurant. Developer Ryan Stone, a newcomer to the casino business, said he’s in the process of filling 400 jobs for dealers, cashiers, cooks, bartenders, waiters and security guards.
“We’re trying to take the card room experience to another level by creating an entertainment facility for all segments of the community,” Stone said. “There will be no smoke, no noise. You’ve heard of a racino – a combination race track and casino? This is a barsino.”
Citrus Heights City Manager Henry Tingle said he’s excited about the new card room, which could become the largest employer in this city of about 84,000. The grand opening is scheduled for July 11.
“Many of those 400 jobs will go to Citrus Heights residents,” Tingle said. “We’re hoping this is the anchor that brings this shopping center back to life and encourages other employers to come here. This is one of the biggest investments the city’s had post-recession.”
Tingle called Stones Gambling Hall a “mini-version of Thunder Valley,” the wildly successful Indian casino on Highway 65 in Placer County. Tingle said the card room would have a restaurant equivalent to those found in Indian casinos.
In order to compete with Thunder Valley and other Indian casinos, Stones Gambling Hall will have to attract the region’s Asian gamblers, who play pai gow poker as well as poker, blackjack and baccarat, said Ken Adams, a Reno-based gambling consultant. The casino’s location right off I-80 could help, he said.
“Primarily you need Chinese players attracted by Asian games – that’s where the big money comes in,” Adams said. “There’s no guaranteed bonanza when you compete against Thunder Valley, Cache Creek and Red Hawk. A lot of small poker rooms lost their business to them a long time ago.”
The new gambling hall, located at 6508 and 6510 Antelope Road, will have two separate card rooms, each with 15 to 17 tables and their own cashiers and cages, Stone said. On the left side, The Tavern will include California blackjack, baccarat, pai gow poker, Spanish 21 and other card games.
On the right side, The Saloon will be dedicated to Texas Hold ’em and perhaps Omaha, a Hold ’em variation. The Saloon – a throwback to the Old West – will feature a saloon and a 78-inch bull’s head with twisted horns imported from a ranch in Texas, said Kermit Schayltz, the veteran casino manager, who for 25 years owned the Lucky Derby card room in Citrus Heights.
“The only thing lacking is sawdust on the floor and a couple of spittoons,” Schayltz said. Stones will have more than 40 large flat-screen TVs and a bar featuring local craft beers, specialty bourbon and whiskey cocktails.
In order to open his new gambling emporium, Stone said he spent $4 million to buy the licenses to two former Citrus Heights card rooms: The Phoenix and the Lucky Derby. Schayltz owned the Lucky Derby license, while Jack Cunningham owned the Phoenix.
There are 89 active card rooms in California, but the state has imposed a moratorium on new licenses. Consequently, they’re “getting valuable, like liquor licenses,” said Pamela Mares, spokeswoman for the California Gambling Control Commission.
Schayltz had long envisioned a large card room in the defunct shopping center that was once home to a sporting-goods store, a gym and lastly, a Salvation Army thrift store.
Next door, an Albertsons and a Rite Aid that once anchored the center have been gone for more than 10 years, Tingle said. Stone is turning the old supermarket into a parking structure with 350 spaces.
Stone, 41, has no restaurant or casino experience, but the Emory University graduate has enjoyed success in real estate and property management. He and his father, Rod Stone, co-founded Monarch Group Investment Funds in La Jolla in 1997.
According to their website, they’ve acquired or developed over 10,500 residential units, including 7,000 high-quality apartments, and have overseen a wide range of business, industrial and residential projects including several master-planned communities. Ryan Stone and his wife, Ashley, support an array of local and national Jewish organizations, including Jewish Family Services of San Diego.
Stones Gambling Hall will include a restaurant run by Sami Ladeki, whose Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza in La Jolla has long been a favorite of his family, Stone said. Ladeki owns 19 restaurants throughout California and Nevada. At Stones, Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar will offer a wide variety of food.
Stone said he has played plenty of blackjack and learned how to play poker from his wife’s brother, Phil Gordon, a professional who used to host the show “Celebrity Poker Showdown.”
Stone figures his ace is the hole is Schayltz, a seasoned card room professional. A single poker table can gross between $300,000 and $750,000 per year if the casino stays full, said Schayltz, who for 10 years was president of the California Gaming Association.
Aside from food and drink revenue, the card rooms will charge a flat rate of $3 to $15 per hand, depending upon the size of the betting limits, Schayltz said. A dealer can deal 34 hands per hour.
Schayltz, 65, said his wife, two sons, daughter and daughter-in-law are all going to work at the new gambling hall. He and Stone are betting that the Sacramento region, home to more than 2 million people, has plenty of poker players to go around.
“Action creates action,” Schayltz said.
Call The Bee’s Stephen Magagnini, (916) 321-1072. Bee researcher Pete Basofin contributed.