“The old nurse in me — the retired nurse — I always think about the mental-health issues,” Overstreet said. But today she’s neutral, “now that I’ve discovered anyone with a cellphone can bet.”
If it opens, the Norco enterprise would be California’s 12th satellite horse-race betting venue, Marten said. State law allows up to 45, including 15 in each of three regions — north, central and south, he said
It is no accident The Derby Room is going into the building of a former restaurant, which is being remodeled at a cost of $500,000.
Zolnier said it will be more than a place to bet on Santa Anita and Los Alamitos races, or the Kentucky Derby. It will be a sports bar and restaurant, he said, with 80 percent to 90 percent of sales coming from food and drinks. Zolnier said he views the gambling element as a way to pull people into the eatery.
“That’s kind of the new business model,” Zolnier said.
And, of course, The Derby Room will have TVs. Lots of them. Big ones.
Zolnier said 44 were ordered, ranging in size from 55 to 80 inches. Some will be tuned to California horse races, plus a sampling from around the country and globe. Others will broadcast football, baseball, basketball and soccer games, and championship fights.
On a tour last week, TVs were hanging from every wall. Chairs were stacked in a corner near the betting window.
“Those are like casino chairs — the cushy ones over there — because they (gamblers) tend to sit for hours and hours,” Zolnier said.
Even the bar stools will have cushions, he said, adding, “We went big on the seating because we want people to be comfortable.”
Operators went big on counters, too. Sparkling granite slabs ring the bar and frame the betting window.
As for the menu, it will feature burgers, ribs, pizza, sandwiches, steak and lobster, Asian dishes such as walnut shrimp and beef and broccoli and Mexican food, said Brandon Zennedjian, executive chief. Refreshments will include craft beers.
For now, customers will be able to bet on horse races only. But Zolnier said The Derby Room is trying to position itself to offer sports betting, in case that becomes legal.
- NORCO: Horsetown USA gambles on pony wagering
- LAKE ELSINORE: Casino introduces off-track horse race betting
- NORCO: Horse-betting facility delayed
- Supreme Court allows for sports betting nationwide
- CORONA: Betting on a better atmosphere
In a landmark decision in May, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law prohibiting sports betting outside Nevada. The law was challenged by New Jersey, which moved quickly to legalize sports gambling. Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Mexico have since followed suit. Meanwhile, a move is underway to place a sports betting measure on the California ballot in 2020.
“We’re by no means banking on it,” Zolnier said. “But we’re going to be ready for it. If I was a betting person, I’d say it has a 10 percent chance.”
THE DERBY ROOM
Location: 3230 Hamner Ave., Norco
Operator: California Horse Racing and Sports, LLC
Open date: Aiming for mid-December
Employees: 30 to 40. Job seekers may apply at thederbyroom.com
Notable: It would be the 12th satellite horse-race betting venue in California
Locations of existing venues: 58 Flat Sports Bar and Casino, Bonita; Commerce Casino, Commerce; Firehouse Restaurant, Bakersfield; Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino, Lake Elsinore; OC Tavern, San Clemente; Ocean’s 11 Casino, Oceanside; Roadhouse Grill, Santa Maria; Sammy’s Restaurant and Bar, Mission Viejo; Santa Clarita Lanes, Santa Clarita; Striders, San Diego; Tilted Kilt, Thousand Oaks.
Sources: California Horse Racing Board, California Horse Racing and Sports