It's been three years in the making, and on Friday morning Fraser Downs opened its new poker room.
The licensed, 12-table facility – which features food and beverage options, plus a full service bar – will be open 24 hours a day.
Fraser Downs is planning daily poker tournaments and live cash games, Ken Stratton, general manager of Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino, said during a tour of the new room the day before its March 2 grand opening.
"We're hoping there will be a game going 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
There's even a separate entrance, so patrons will be able to come and go when the rest of the casino is closed.
Seventy new employees have been hired to work the room as dealers and supervisors. Many are new faces, but some personnel have come from as far away as Great Canadian Gaming Corporation's other casinos back east, Stratton said.
Thursday morning, about two dozen dealers were learning the ropes on the room's Bravo waiting system by Genesis Gaming, which is the first of its kind in B.C.
The grand opening was the culmination of three years' effort to transform the former gaming floor at Fraser Downs into a poker room, an expansion that required regulatory approval from B.C. Lottery Corp.
"Everyone's pretty excited," said Sonja Mandic, manager of media and responsible gambling for Great Canadian.
"Poker is a popular game out there. It's on TV – it's become a sport. People want to try it. It's definitely a big component of the casino business."
Fraser Downs now joins other casinos in the Lower Mainland and nearby Washington state in offering a poker room. But unlike most of its counterparts in the region, Fraser Downs' poker room features a small dining area where patrons can gather, a bar and flat screen TVs for viewing sports.
While not a huge revenue generator for the casino, Stratton noted the poker room represents an important new asset for the overall facility, which already has slots, table games and live harness racing.
"Having poker is part of the game," he said. "What we find is we've got spouses or friends, and one will like table games and one will like slots. One will like poker and one will like horse racing, so if you're coming to a facility, the husband can sit down and play poker while the wife is upstairs having fun playing some slot machines or eating."
One patron who will likely be spending time in the poker room at Fraser Downs is Bill Reid, a Texas Hold'Em fan who also happens to be the executive director of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce.
Reid called Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino the "baby sister of the Great Canadian chain," and said more needs to be done to promote the Cloverdale facility.
The poker room, he said, is a critical addition to the facility, which has to compete with other casinos, notably Cascades Casino in nearby Langley, which has a 10-table room.
"Probably half their clients are from Surrey and Cloverdale," he said. "The poker table are full every night at Cascades. You have to book ahead."
Until now, one of those Surrey players drawn to Langley for a $40 tournament was Reid.
He's happy there's finally a poker room closer to home, at Fraser Downs.
"I'll probably go once a week," he said.
The poker room will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Those are longer operating hours than the rest of the casino, which is open from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. on weekdays and is open 24 hours on weekends. From 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. there will be a hot dog machine and sandwiches available in the poker room if players get hungry.
Visit www.fraserdowns.com for daily game schedules and upcoming tournaments.
Fraser Downs Racetrack and Casino is located at 17755 60 Avenue in Surrey.