INGLEWOOD — The search for a monetary helping hand from lady luck was in full effect on a recent weekday afternoon at the Hollywood Park Casino.
The casino floor was buzzing with activity as groups of Asian tourists crowded around poker and black jack tables, while in an adjacent hall the eyes of locals were fixated on television screens showing horse races.
Outside, Gary Moody smiled as he trudged up the driveway of the casino and spoke about instances he hit it big playing poker.
“A couple times I won about $12,000,” the Inglewood resident said. “I play here two, three times a week.”
While smoking a cigarette, another Inglewood resident, who only gave his first name of Todd, stood outside the casino doors and talked about his years of gambling at the casino and the racetrack that once sat beside it.
“A lot of good times and some bad,” the Iowa native said.
Casino operators expect the good times to roll in abundance this fall after they move the casino from its current location — known for its old-timey look and feel — to its new, swanky locale facing West Century Boulevard less than 100 yards away.
Work crews are putting the finishing touches on the 110,000-square-foot, ultramodern Hollywood Park Casino, which has risen from the ground next to the gambling house’s location of 22 years.
Casino General Manager Deven Kumar would not confirm an opening date for the new building, but said updating the casino was a must.
“The current state of the casino is indicative of when it was originally built and we recognized the fact that we needed to grow along with the community,” he said.
Kumar said when a mixed-use development was originally proposed for the area around the casinothe intention was for the existing casino to be remodeled, but news of the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams move from Missouri to Southern California and the construction of the City of Champions development in Inglewood to house a football stadium for the Rams, changed the plans of the casino’s owners, San Francisco-headquartered Stockbridge Capital Group.
“It made sense for us to actually build a brand new casino for us to compliment the City of Champions development,” Kumar said. “Therefore, HPC needed to build a new casino to grow with the expanding community around us.”
HPC’s new home is intended to attract high-dollar fans who will be attending Rams games at the stadium when completed in three years and keep the current gamblers coming.
The new venue will be 40 percent larger per square foot than the current building. The location will have simulcast wagering, three bars and a deli. There will also be the intimate Raise Lounge and the Century Bar & Grill. The casino’s all-glass entrance is already constructed, and when the see-through doors open for the first time a digital sign will greet visitors. A four-story, 1,600-space parking garage sits next to the casino.
HPC’s modernistic site will have 125 card game tables; 35 more than the current casino. Players will be able to test their luck at games like blackjack, baccarat and daily no-limit Texas Hold’ em tourneys. There will be a 20 percent increase in high-limit play.
The betting house currently has 700 employees, but Kumar said the new structure would have 900.
Kumar would not reveal the price tag of the new casino construction, but news reports have said the City of Champions Revitalization will cost about $3 billion when complete. The public-private project is being led by the casino’s operators and the Kroenke Group, a real estate firm operated by Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams.
Hollywood Park will take up about 11 acres of the 298-acre project, which will also include a hotel and office, residential and retail areas.
As of press time Inglewood officials had not returned phone calls, but Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts told media outlets earlier this month that the brand new casino is the first step in the city’s revitalization plan. The mayor said HPC, the football stadium and other developments will bring a lot of dollars to the city.
Kumar said the casino is positioned to be a destination for hosting charity and celebrity events and tournaments. The official said HPC will host a variety of experiences geared towards entertaining visitors like an art program that will showcase the work of local artists.
“We’ve been a fixture in the Inglewood community for more than two decades; to continue the iconic legacy of HPC is a huge honor for us,” he said. “With the new casino, we are thrilled to offer an updated entertainment destination for locals as well as the surrounding communities.”
The casino is hosting private tours next week. Kumar said when the building opens there will be a grand opening party, celebrity poker tournament and tailgate parties.
Moody, the poker player, said is looking forward to the seeing the new casino.
“I’ve spent a lot of money here, so I’m ready for it,” he said. “It should be even better.”
While watching a horse race, Freddie Thomas of Los Angeles said he hopes the area to watch the stallions compete is a bit bigger in the new HPC, so people won’t talk or cheer over each other.
“The horses can’t hear you,” he said. “I just can’t wait for it to open up. I know I will be there the first day it opens.”