Come early July, Citrus Heights will be seeing a lot of new action as Stones Gambling Hall opens with two separate card rooms, plus a bar and restaurant, at 6508/6510 Antelope Road.
About a year ago, Stones co-owner Ryan Stone and his father, Rodney Stone, acquired licenses for two card rooms in Citrus Heights: Lucky Derby Casino at 7433 Greenback Lane and the now-shuttered Phoenix Casino & Lounge at 5948 Auburn Blvd. The capital for this investment is from the Stones’ interest in a real estate investment and development firm based in La Jolla, The Monarch Group.
“We did a lot of due diligence and a lot of research, a lot of demographic research, and after poring through it, it looked like a good opportunity,” Stone told me. “We tried to make it like an old-time saloon where the bar and the tables and the restaurant all come together, but in a modern style, so that’s why we left the trusses exposed up there.”
On a tour of the 25,000-square-foot gambling hall, Stone enters a card room known as The Tavern where blackjack, pai gow and baccarat will be played. The room has a separate address and entrance from the poker room, which the Stones call The Saloon, but customers can move between the rooms via sliding glass doors.
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Behind The Tavern is Sammy’s Restaurant + Bar. No, it’s not a Sammy Hagar restaurant. Rather, it’s the first Northern California venture for restaurant industry veteran Sami Ladeki, who owns 25 eateries in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada. He’s perhaps known best for his Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza locations, but he also owns Roppongi in Palm Springs and La Jolla and Prime 10 Steakhouse in Del Mar and Rancho Mirage.
“This place will have over 400 jobs,” Stone said. “We’re in the process of hiring, and we’ve got servers, dealers and more.”
Applicants can submit résumés at stonesgamblinghall.com/. Lucky Derby employs about 110 people, Stone said, many of whom will take jobs at Stones’ gambling hall, which will open six hours after Lucky Derby shuts down for good. To ensure there’s enough parking for their enterprise and other businesses in the nearby strip mall, the Stones and their partners are constructing a parking structure with 350 spaces.
Unlike Vegas or Indian casinos, card rooms cannot serve as the bank for blackjack, pai gow or baccarat. That opportunity passes among players, or if no player steps up, card rooms contract with third-party dealer-bankers to cover the wagers. Card rooms earn their money on food, beverages and the fees paid by dealer-bankers and other gamblers.
Like Stones Gambling Hall, a number of card room operators have expanded into more-upscale venues, luring business to their urban locations at the expense of more remote Indian casinos. The trend has caused some rancor.
Tribes such as the United Auburn Indian Community, operators of Thunder Valley Casino, have complained to the state Bureau of Gambling Control that the halls aren’t regularly offering regular customers the right to serve as the bank. In some cases, the card rooms also have begun offering games without fees. Consequently, the tribes said, these businesses are now indistinguishable from the Vegas-style play at Indian casinos.
Gambling industry consultants, however, say players prefer faster play and don’t want to assume the risk of being the bank. And, they say, card rooms have dispensed with player fees to compete with the expansion of Indian casinos into suburban areas.
Cutting their engines
The owners of Capital Power Equipment, Michael Ayers and Darryl Von Rotz, are calling it quits and closing the Sacramento business where they sold and serviced lawn mowers for more than 50 years.
“We’ve gone from at one time having 13 employees to just the two of us,” Ayers told me. “Years ago, we had a wholesale division, too, that shipped all over – from Fresno north into Oregon and also to the other side of the Sierras.”
As the only service outfit for lawn mowers in the south Sacramento area, Ayers said, there was a time when mowers would be lined up four rows wide alongside the building at 2940 Freeport Blvd. It wasn’t unusual, he noted, for 150 mowers to come in for repair on a Saturday.
The big-box stores changed everything, decimating their wholesale business and making it hard to turn a profit in the last decade or two, he said.
Ayers and Von Rotz bought the business from the original owners, brothers Lawrence and Robert Bell. The Bells launched their business near T and 10th Streets in 1948, but they moved into a new building in the Land Park/Curtis Park area after 10 years. Ayers joined the company in 1963 after a stint in the U.S. Navy, but his partner has got him beat.
“Darryl was born and raised in the house back there, so he hasn’t gotten very far,” Ayers said, gesturing behind the one-story building. “He came to work for the guys in ’59. ... He still lives there.”
Ayers said he and his partner, now in their 70s, will find plenty to keep them busy in retirement. He said he could not divulge the building’s buyers, and didn’t know what was planned for the building.