2013-11-21 / Business
Step up and place your bets
Tavern patrons can now wager on horse races
The restaurant on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, which opened in February 2012, recently received a state license to operate a mini-satellite wagering facility, which airs live horse racing via satellite simulcast every Wednesday through Sunday.
The Mermaid Tavern began taking bets in early September, just in time for opening day of the Barretts Race Meet at Fairplex Park in Pomona.
“Horse racing is sort of (coming) alive again, especially in the communities around here,” he said. “The Santa Rosa Valley, Malibu, Old Agoura—these are all horse properties. Even though it’s a gambling thing, what we’re offering is the whole glamour of horse racing.”
The local eatery is the first in Ventura County to become licensed as a horse racing minisatellite location.
Unlike tracks, which host the races, and satellite locations at fairs and official racing associations—like the Derby Club at the Ventura County Fairgrounds—mini-satellites are located inside sports bars or restaurants.
As part of the licensing process, the restaurant had to get approval from the City of Thousand Oaks to add off-track betting to its conditional use permit, Ibanez said.
“It’s like applying for a liquor license,” the owner said. “(The state) checks your background extensively. Then you have to comply with all the laws and regulations they require.”
“We do not touch any money that has to do with the betting,” Ibanez said.
Complete with large-screen televisions, self-serve wagering machines, a betting counter and seating area, the space in the back part of the restaurant is open only to adults 21 and older.
During live betting times, the restaurant is required under its license to have an on-duty security guard to ensure no minors enter the designated betting area.
Daniel Miller, assistant manager and head of security at the Mermaid Tavern, said he’s had a lot of positive feedback from customers.
“There’s no stigma at all,” Miller said. “Usually with gambling there’s a bit of a stigma attached to it. But fortunately Thousand Oaks has really welcomed (the off-track betting) with open arms.”
Robert Haupt, general manager of the restaurant, said he hopes the betting venue will increase traffic and help build a regular clientele.
“We’re starved a little bit for entertainment here in the Conejo Valley,” he said. “Before this, most people had to drive far from here to watch the races. . . . I think this screams to the neighborhood that we’re unique.”
Food and fun
Louis Masry and his wife, Dianne, sat at a booth inside the Mermaid Tavern last Friday, watching the races over lunch.
The Westlake Village couple, who own three race horses, said they came for the food and the atmosphere.
“There are a lot of horseracing fans that live in the Conejo Valley,” Masry said. “With the traffic going into Santa Anita or Hollywood Park, it’s so easy coming here to watch the races and enjoy yourself. And you can have lunch or dinner at the same time. That’s why we like it.”
Off-track betting at the Mermaid Tavern, 1345 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Night races run from 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The mini-satellite broadcasts up to 14 tracks at a time, depending on the active races.
For more information call (805) 777-7418.