As they say, you can’t keep a good man down. Or, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again. A rolling stone gathers no moss?
Sorry, I was sidetracked by wise old sayings. The first one, though, applies to our casino industry tale this month, coming to us from the great state of Texas.
As you may know, there’s not a lot of casino-style gambling in Texas. There’s the one Indian casino, the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle on the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass. But that’s Class II and pull-tab games stuffed with poker and live bingo into a 15,000-square-foot space—a comparative broom closet next to your average Nevada casino.
Other than the casino, gambling in Texas means the lottery, charitable stuff, or parimutuel horse and dog racing. None of the tracks have slot machines, and, as noted in Aaron Stanley’s racino article, if you look at the grandstands of traditional racetracks these days, you’re likely to find the pigeons outnumber the octogenarians.
I can’t believe anybody still runs dog tracks. Do they still have the electric rabbit that the dogs chase, like the one Bugs Bunny fell in love with in that one cartoon?
I’m sorry. My main frames of reference in life usually circle back either to Looney Tunes or the Three Stooges.
Anyway, Texas also allows “game rooms” with slot-like “eight-liners,” but they are restricted to non-cash prizes valued at less than $5. Remarkably, some nefarious operators have tried to skirt the law by doing cash payments on the side. (“I am shocked—shocked—to find that gambling is going on in here!”)
Which brings us, via an exhaustively circuitous route, back to the original subject of the column—Rocky’s Drive Thru in Fort Worth, Texas. The owner of Rocky’s, whose name is, predictably, Ameer Hirani, was arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime and keeping a gambling place. At the time, he was out on bail for his arrest a year ago, for the same alleged crime.
The tale began back at Rocky’s Drive Thru in spring of 2016. Two undercover Fort Worth police officers walked into Rocky’s and observed 13 electronic gambling devices. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
“One officer placed a $20 bet into one of the gambling devices, receiving 2,000 credits. The officer played until the credits were exhausted. While the officer played, a woman in the store yelled out she had won $20 on a gambling device. Hirani walked out from behind a register, verified the winning, reset the machine and later walked back to the register. Hirani took money out of the register and gave the woman some money, police said in the search warrant.
“Police returned to the business a few days later and seized 22 motherboards from gambling devices, almost $5,000, keys to the gaming machines and just over a gram of methamphetamine, according to the search warrant.”
Because, you know, how can you run a respectable gambling establishment without meth?
According to the newspaper, Hirani posted $5,000 bail in the first case and was awaiting trial on those charges last month when he was nabbed for allegedly resuming his prior operation. He is out on bail again, this time for only $2,500. (I guess he gets the two-strike discount.)
Way to get back on the horse, Ameer! A true American entrepreneur won’t let a little thing like the law keep him down. Next time I’m down in Texas, I’ll stop by Rocky’s for a refreshing beverage and some amusement-only entertainment.
In other news, Rob Tercek, founder and president of General Creativity Consulting, warned at a conference last month that casino operators are in danger of becoming “vaporized” as an industry. It’s a term he coined for his book, Vaporized: Solid Strategies for Success in a Dematerialized World. He said social gaming, an outdated slot-machine model and a failure to have stuff that millennials like will lead to the same “vaporization” that claimed Blockbuster, telephone directories, record stores and That 80s Show.
So, we’re going to be vaporized unless we change our ways. But for the sake of argument, don’t we have a couple more decades of baby boomers dumping money at casinos before the kids take over?
Relax. I believe the industry is attacking the millennial question in the correct manner—in a deliberate, methodical way; experimenting, seeing what works and what doesn’t, with large companies like MGM leading the way in trying out new game styles. Don’t worry. We’ll figure out how to separate millennials from their money before they actually have any.
I tell you, they wouldn’t stand for that kind of talk in Texas.