Calder first opened as a horse racing track back in 1971 and has welcomed locals and visitors alike every year since then. It’s been one of the most successful pari-mutuel franchises in the state’s history. While horse racing and simulcast wagering have been its mainstays – Calder is a Churchill Downs Company – Calder is getting ready to enter the world of casino gaming for the first time with the opening of its slots facility in late January.
The new Calder Casino, to open soon, is a Las Vegas-style, single-story facility and boasts three new restaurants. Gaming enthusiasts will love the layout of the facility, from the broad, boulevard-like entrance and porte cochere with valet service, to the immediate reward of the casino floor upon entry, to the convenience of the three new restaurants, a VIP room and an exclusive High Limit slots parlor. Everything is right where gamers want it.
And what they want are the games – over 1,200 of them at Calder. All the major manufacturers will be represented, including WMS, Aristocrat, IGT, Bally, Konami, Atronic, Speilo, AGS, Ainsworth, and AC Coin. Games like Star Trek, Wheel of Fortune, Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Slingo and Monopoly are some of the most popular in the industry and will be available at Calder. “Royal Match 21” (electronic blackjack) also has great appeal as it is new to the marketplace. And, coming in the spring will be the new Kentucky Derby-themed slot machine made by Aristocrat and licensed by Churchill Downs. Just in time for racing’s Triple Crown.
The Calder team has made significant efforts to market the property as a “triple feature” destination: a place to play slots, horses, and poker. In what has become a busy gaming marketplace, it’s a unique selling point that they hope pays off.
Calder becomes only the second pari-mutuel facility in Miami-Dade County to offer slots, but remains the only Thoroughbred track in the county to boast a casino. Horse racing still draws its loyal customers at Calder; the racing season is eight months long and the track offers year-round simulcasting. But now the property conveniently located on the county line is poised to attract slots players from both counties – Miami-Dade and Broward – as well as part of the tourist market. That’s also what makes the timing of the Grand Opening in late January so attractive, with all the visitors in town for the events at neighboring Dolphin Stadium.
While the Calder Casino does not have a specific “theme,” the Calder team wanted to integrate elements of their horse racing heritage into the casino. For example, two of the new restaurants were named with a nod to racing: Front Runners (a quick and economical “grab ‘n’ go”) and Twin Spires Tavern (a casual and sporty atmosphere with Latin/Caribbean influences, named in recognition of the famed Twin Spires of Churchill Downs). (The third restaurant is Tropical Gardens Buffet, offering a “plethora of tempting choices.”)
Guests will be able to make wagers on live and simulcast racing in the slots facility, too, and a number of television monitors are dedicated to the wide-range of racetracks offered. A schedule of exciting casino promotions is being developed for slots enthusiasts, and gamers are encouraged to join Calder’s player-reward program, the Twin Spires Club.
The Twin Spires Club rewards players with “points, prizes and privileges” at Calder for whatever they play: slots, horses or poker. For those who wish to sign up for the Twin Spires Slots Rewards card ahead of time, Calder’s web site has an online registration page at http://www.calderracecourse.com/loyalty. New members will automatically receive casino mailings and offers, including an invitation to the Grand Opening in January. As an added bonus, new members will receive a free 2009 Kentucky Derby Glass and $10 in free Twin Spires play.
While the slots action is getting ready to heat up in January, visitors to Calder currently can wager on simulcast races or play Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, and 7-Card Stud at Studz Poker Club every day and night of the week. In a smart architectural decision, the Calder team built Studz Poker Club on the first floor of the existing grandstand building, serving as a gateway between the new slots facility and the horse racing facility.
Studz Poker Club – its name another nod to horse racing – is perhaps the nicest card room in all of South Florida. Its 29 tables are well-spaced in the large room and Studz undoubtedly has the most comfortable chairs in the state. To keep guests comfortable, Studz also offers massage service, right at the tables. Poker players can also get a horse bet down while they hold onto their pocket aces by hailing one of the many “walk-around” mutuel tellers at Studz and never miss out on the action.
Studz also offers a great deal of tournaments and promotions each month and these features are listed on the Calder web site at http://www.calderracecourse.com. And to help new card players, Studz also offers free lessons. (In the comfy chairs, no less.)
It’s an exciting time around Calder these days as a new era begins with the transformation of the track into the all new Calder Casino & Race Course. As Calder continues its “Race into the Future,” the venue’s triple play of slots, horses and poker may well draw a full house.