Sammy

Sammy, a greyhound with three legs because of a racing injury, relaxes at home where he lives with his "mom," Michelle Patterson, and five dog-tolerant cats: Cinnamon, Beau, Kirby, Buddy, and Joy. Patterson has an office in the building where The Beacon is located in Downtown DeLand, and Sammy is often seen accompanying Mom to work and charming her clients. Sammy has yet to make friends with Conrad Beacon Cat, who also lives on the second floor, but that's no fault of Sammy's.

Four years after it approved a cardroom with a sports bar in an aging shopping center, the Orange City Council has agreed to allow the business to draw bigger crowds — but the coronavirus pandemic may limit the expected rush.

Since opening in 2017, the Orange City Racing & Card Club at 822-4 Saxon Blvd. has operated with a maximum 297 seats in the poker room, by agreement with the city.

“We need to remove the existing cap,” Daytona Beach Kennel Club President Fred Guzman told the Orange City Council July 14. “We need to clear this hurdle.”

The cardroom has been good for Orange City, Guzman said, producing more than $300,000 in revenue from the state parimutuel fund. He said that income may increase by $100,000-plus this fiscal year.

The parimutuel-fund money is in addition to city property taxes and electric-utility taxes.

The cardroom produces an economic impact of $6 million for Orange City, Guzman said, because of the scores of people employed there.

“I like what you all have done,” Vice Mayor Bill O’Connor said, praising the cardroom and its owners. “I appreciate the work you have done. ... Thank you for what you have done with that blighted community. I just wanted to give you a thumbs-up.”

The cardroom and restaurant operate in what had been an empty former movie theater.

Orange City Racing & Card Club operates under the state parimutuel gambling license of the Daytona Beach Kennel Club.

A restaurant and sports bar, combined with opportunities for off-premises betting, have made the cardroom a success, and the local business and its parent firm, Delaware North, requested permission in late 2019 to lift the customer limit that was set four years ago. The Orange City Council readily agreed to do so.

Asked how social distancing to combat the spread of the coronavirus may restrict the numbers of fortune seekers, Guzman replied, “I really couldn’t put a number on it.”

In line with what other businesses have done or are doing, he said the business has installed hand sanitizers.

The Orange City poker room covers about 6,200 square feet of the business’s total of 29,237 square feet. The cardroom now has 34 tables, with as many as eight players at each one.

“We’re not requesting to expand beyond the current footprint,” Guzman said.

Orange City Racing & Card Club is welcoming back its clientele after the pandemic shutdown.

“We reopened on Memorial Day,” Guzman said.

As well as the gambling, the restaurant is also doing well, he added, noting alcoholic beverages are available with food orders.

The Kennel Club took over the former multiplex cinema in the Orange City Marketplace shopping center and redeveloped the space under a conditional-use permit granted by the City Council. A “conditional use” is special permission given to a developer to operate a business not specifically allowed under the zoning code.

One City Council member recalled the debate in 2016 over a gambling business.

“There was some controversy about this, but we did approve it,” Council Member Bill Crippen said.

Critics of the cardroom expressed concerns about possible crime, late-night noise and traffic. According to the City Council, those fears have not materialized.

“The cardroom has been a positive impact in Orange City. I haven’t heard any complaints,” Mayor Gary Blair told Guzman.

The council voted 7-0 to remove the cap on customers in the cardroom.

Greyhound racing is over

The Daytona Beach Kennel Club may need a new name.

Kennel Club President Fred Guzman said dog racing has ended — months before the Dec. 31, 2020, deadline mandated by Florida voters.

In 2018, a majority of the state’s electorate — about 69 percent — adopted a state constitutional amendment to halt greyhound racing.

“We were planning on ending dog racing on March 28. We shut down March 20,” Guzman told The Beacon.

The closedown of dog racing and betting on it coincided with the lockdown on many businesses, schools and other establishments to combat the coronavirus. There was also the matter of finding homes for the racing dogs.

“We made the decision to stop early so that all the greyhounds could be adopted,” Guzman said. “Not all the dogs would have been adoptable at once.”