Jan. 03, 2012
Al Jones | Kalamazoo Gazette
Published: Sunday, January 01, 2012
Ryan Reedy, owner of Reedy Corp, Metro Properties Inc. and the Charity Events Inc., stands Wednesday in space that will house Casino Royale, one of three charitable gaming concepts he is introducing early this year. It is on the third floor of his Rosenbaum Building, 310 E. Michigan Ave.
KALAMAZOO — People gamble. And, for the most part, they seem to enjoy it.
But these days, area people who like gambling and casino-style entertainment are leaving Kalamazoo to find it in Wayland, Battle Creek, New Buffalo, Mount Pleasant, Detroit and other places, Ryan Reedy says.
He wants them to find it in downtown Kalamazoo.
So the local entrepreneur will open the first of three new charitable gaming concepts in late January in a spot next to the Rosenbaum Building, which he owns at East Michigan Avenue and Edwards Street.
”We are planning to open our first concept on Jan. 25 — Black Jacks Casino Bar — at the Wild Bull Saloon (& Steak Pit),” said Reedy, whose Metro Properties Inc. and Reedy Corp. own and operate the Monaco Bay Piano Bar, The Wild Bull Saloon, The Skybar and other venues in the 300 block of East Michigan.
Black Jacks will include four, low-limit blackjack tables in what is now the patio bar of the Wild Bull Saloon, located off Edwards Street.
Reedy plans to open a second gaming concept — Casino Royale at The Gatsby, roulette wheels, craps, a money wheel and four medium-limit black jack tables — in mid- to late February on the third floor of the Rosenbaum Building, a complement to The Gatsby, his fine-dining venue on the second floor.
The Gatsby, marketed as a modern-day speakeasy, now uses 5,000 square feet of space on the second floor of the six-story building. Casino Royale will use the building’s third floor.
Reedy plans to start a third gaming concept in March — a basement-level poker parlor with 10 poker tables and a sports theme. It will use space that is not currently developed.
The development of those areas, into which Reedy expects to put about $500,000, is under way.
How will it work?
The operation will split the gaming revenues 50-50 with nonprofit organizations who have obtained Michigan Lottery Millionaire Party Licenses. Reedy’s properties will provide the location, the equipment and the staff. Nonprofits will have to qualify for the state licenses, which allow them up to 16 days per year to put on Las Vegas-style gaming, and provide one or two people to dispense chips and collect money.
Andrew Hutchins is the new gaming manager for charitable gaming for Charity Events Inc., a part of Metro Properties Inc.
“It allows you to provide qualified nonprofits with a charitable gaming event,” Reedy said, speaking of the licenses, which have been available for years but have been primarily used in lower-profile settings, such as the back rooms of bars and bowling alleys. “They are in charge of the event. You are simply providing the location, the equipment, the staff and the marketing so they can accomplish the fundraising activity.”
He said few businesses have tried to develop a full casino atmosphere while working with licensed nonprofits.
“We in the Entertainment District (the combination of Reedy’s downtown venues) believe that it needs to be its own experience, its own concept, its own theme,” he said, “and so, therefore, this really is the perfect next step because the goal of the Entertainment District was to be a Las Vegas-style experience.”
Kurt Tallman, of the Michigan Lottery’s Charitable Gaming Division, said Reedy’s Entertainment District has been approved to become an authorized location for charitable gaming, effective Jan. 12.
With the state’s Millionaire Party Program, that authorization typically goes in hand with businesses that have obtained a gaming supplier license, Tallman said. But it does not appear that Reedy’s organization will need one.
Other businesses have or are doing things similar to what Reedy is planning, he said, but they are typically turning an extra room into a place that nonprofit organizations use.
“There is a lot of scheduling involved,” Tallman said. “They (businesses) are dealing with a lot of people and organizations.”
That can be problematic because such organizations don’t always know what they’re doing, he said.
Reedy said he expects to have organizations scheduled to operate at Black Jacks consistently for four days per week at the start and up to seven days per week later.
The party license requires the charitable organization to handle all the money that is generated, Tallman said. It forbids the business from advertising Millionaire Party gaming unless the event is associated with a charitable cause, a qualified organization and the specific date of the event. And they have to show what cause the proceeds benefit.
Tallman said there has been such a rush of people trying to get Millionaire Party Licenses in recent months that the state has put a moratorium on issuing gaming supplier licenses to new applicants. Those are licenses for businesses that can furnish the needed equipment.
Traffic at the Entertainment District is down about 25 percent since last year, Reedy said. He attributes that to entertainment-seekers over age 30 making their way to Gun Lake Casino and other regional casinos. Gun Lake opened on Feb. 10 in Wayland.
“We can build and create a competitive gaming environment with blackjack tables, roulette, craps and we can do it on a better scale,” Reedy said.
He said he enjoys gambling and has spent time in Las Vegas. But he said he has been an opponent of regional casinos for a long time because their slot machines, which typically generate about 70 percent of their revenues, tend to attract the people who can least afford it — the low-income and the elderly. So he said his plans include no slot machines and the licenses that organizations will use prevent them from being used.
Reedy said he understands the hypocrisy of being against regional casinos while developing gambling venues. But he said people like to gamble, so they may as well do it in downtown Kalamazoo and generate revenue for nonprofit organizations here.
“Places that provide this opportunity provide something they (charities) could never get on their own,” he said.
Regional casinos have all but wiped out fundraising opportunities such as Bingo and Monte Carlo nights, he said.
Reedy said two charities already are on board for the opening of his first venue and he is in discussions with all of the major charities in the area.
“There are thousands of nonprofits in the state and hundreds in the area,” he said. “We currently have two groups for Jan. 25 and many more to go.”
He would not name the groups who have signed on, but he said, “We do not anticipate that we will have a problem lining up organizations.”
Although 50 percent of the proceeds from his venues will go to charities, Reedy said, “We are not going to mislead anybody into think that we are doing this and not making money because we are going to make money at this.”
He said he expects his business to do quite well if the concepts are well received by the community.
“It is an opportunity that exists for the dual benefit of both parties that we fully intend to commercialize,” Reedy said.
Contact Al Jones at email@example.com or 269-388-8556.
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