|By Eric Eyre, The Charleston Gazette,
W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
December 15, 2009 --CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gambling seems to be catching on at The Greenbrier.
Gambling revenues at the White Sulphur Springs resort nearly doubled last month compared to October, according to a West Virginia Lottery report released this week.
The Greenbrier made $237,634 in table game and video slot revenues in November, up from $121,993 the previous month.
The resort's casino operations chief, Todd Fishon, said many guests are enjoying The Greenbrier's newest amenity so much that they're booking return stays. The Tavern Casino opened in October.
"We've seen a lot of repeat clientele," Fishon said. "It's a great social environment. We're still very busy in the evening."
Fishon acknowledged that The Greenbrier's recent $59 room rate special, which was offered Nov. 15 and 16, bolstered gambling revenues this month. The hotel was sold out those nights.
"On those days, we had a really nice crowd and a great atmosphere," Fishon said.
The Greenbrier has offered the $59 "Tribute to the Virginias" promotion on 11 additional nights through February. Rooms are sold out on those dates. Standard rooms and the luxury resort normally cost $275 a night.
The resort started offering table games -- poker, roulette and blackjack -- at the Tavern Casino on Oct. 1. The casino also has 44 video slot terminals.
The resort gets to keep 65 percent of November's table game revenues of $161,178, and 47 percent of its slot machine revenues, which totaled $76,456 after payouts.
"The Tavern Casino is just a sampling of what gambling is like at a five-star resort," Fishon said.
By April, The Greenbrier plans to expand its gaming operations on a grand scale. The resort is building a $25 million underground casino. The 82,000-square-foot facility will include 320 video lottery machines and 40 table games.
Construction is proceeding on schedule, Fishon said.
"They're getting close to enclosing it," he said. "They're making tremendous progress."
Fishon said The Greenbrier's Tavern Casino sets itself apart from other casinos by offering gambling in an "upscale environment."
After 7 p.m., for instance, the casino's dress code forbids jeans and sneakers.
"Our clientele isn't your typical gambler," Fishon said. "After dinner, it's great to come down here and get a drink and gamble. It's an enhancement of the guest experience at the hotel."
The resort's casino patrons are limited to hotel guests and members of The Greenbrier Sporting Club's luxury home development. People registered for events at the resort also are allowed to gamble, provided 400 rooms are occupied at the time.
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has said gambling will help restore the resort's profitability and the five-star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide (formerly the Mobil Travel Guide) the hotel lost in 2000.
The West Virginia Lottery approved The Greenbrier's gambling license in late September, making it the state's fourth full-service casino.
The Tavern Casino will remain open after the massive underground casino opens in April.
The Greenbrier recently started an advertising campaign to inform potential guests about the opportunity to gamble at the resort.
"We're just trying to increase public awareness that gambling is offered in a place where you can socialize and gamble in a very elegant environment," Fishon said.
Reach Eric Eyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4869.
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