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Tough Times, So Flynt’s Hiring T&A Models To Be Dealers/Shills at the Hustler Casino

Gardenia – from – Porn mogul and free speech advocate Larry Flynt opened the Hustler Casino in Gardena 11 years ago with one noticeable omission: attractive, scantily clad women.

The card club has carried the brand of Flynt’s raunchy pornography magazine in name only. Though gambling is clearly the main attraction at the club, red velvet walls, sultry paintings and glitzy chandeliers suggest a French boudoir.

But tough economic times have spurred casino managers to think outside the box this year. So they hired models and trained them to be dealers for the club’s newly remodeled second-floor blackjack lounge, where they hope to attract casual customers who are perhaps more interested in a nightclub experience than actual gaming.

The new employees of the Monday-to-Saturday, late-night lounge don’t wear the button-up blouses and vests of their dealer counterparts downstairs. They do wear plunging necklines and short skirts.

And a disc jockey spins music in the warmly lit bar.

“Gaming is only fun if there’s energy and excitement and night life,” said Dan Sanbrotti, director of table game operations. “People don’t just come to play cards. You can do that at home. We’re trying to create a total experience.”

Rida Than, one of the new model-dealers, wore an animal-print top with a low neckline one recent night and stood at a blackjack table specially designed with silhouettes of naked women.

“We’re usually really friendly with customers; we try to make them feel welcome,” Than said.

“We talk to them and joke around. A lot of the customers come back. They love the vibe up here; it’s very chill and cozy. (The players are) very serious and intent.”

The lounge has several tables for blackjack and one for Texas Hold ’em, but gambling is concentrated mainly on the first floor.

So far, the casino mainly attracts serious gamblers but its managers are hoping the shift in focus will soon draw in new faces.

“We have a local clientele that comes here three to five times a week, but there’s still a market segment of 25- to 45-year-olds that doesn’t frequent card clubs,” Sanbrotti said. “We want to offer everything they have in nightclubs and, on top of that, we have gambling.”

Gardena’s two card clubs – the Normandie and Hustler – have fallen victim to the sour economy in the past few years. However, their combined tax revenue still makes them the largest sales tax generator in the city.

So far this year, the casinos have together collected $42.5million in gross revenue, according to city records of paid sales tax. That figure is about equal to last year’s numbers, said Gardena Assistant City Manager Chris Hach.

“Each of them has been running consistent to what they were last year,” Hach said.

Hustler General Manager Tom Candy said revenue has not picked up significantly but it hasn’t declined either.

“We’re trying to attract additional players,” Candy said. “It’s been flat for the last few years. But it’s coming back very gradually.”

Statewide, card clubs experienced steady increases in revenue from 2001 to 2008, but there was a 3.9 percent overall decline in 2009 from the previous year, according to Alan Meister’s 2011 Indian Gaming Industry Report. The report uses the most recent data on the gaming industry, which is from 2009.

Card clubs often are called poker clubs because they are not allowed to carry slot machines like commercial and Indian casinos. The casinos are always looking for new ways to stay competitive – including ongoing lobbying for a statewide online poker consortium that would allow them to concentrate Internet gaming profits at brick-and-mortar gambling venues.

The Normandie and Hustler have both made cutbacks in their operations in response to the struggling economy, as players limited the amount of money they put on the tables. They also consistently add games to entice new gamblers and experiment with other ways to create excitement for the club, such as tournaments and video poker tables (which were not successful).

The Hustler’s new focus on attractive female employees might help leverage the business back into an upward trend, club managers hope.

“We’ve been talking about Hustler-izing more of the property,” Sanbrotti said. “We want to use the brand name more outside of this space. Maybe have attractive women at the valet in chauffeur uniforms.”


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