Dominic Niro came from the Majestic Star in the Chicagoland area to fill the managing slot at Daytona Beach Kennel Club. Here’s a Q&A to get to know him a little better.
How long have you been in poker? I started in the early ’90s helping the charity groups in the Chicagoland area before the casinos came with poker. When Showboat was given a license in Indiana I started as a dealer, and then I moved on to a floor supervisor when Harrah’s acquired them. I moved over to Trump Casino in early 2000, and Majestic acquired Trump Casino, and I was an assistant manager with Trump but the poker room manager with Majestic Star (for five years).
Why did you come here and what are some differences you’re noticing now that you’re in Florida? Starting off in my career, having a passion for poker and being in the Midwest I worked in casinos where they had poker. What amazes me is that these are poker rooms, and I came into this business to be in poker. Even though I understand how the casino business works, I’m a poker guy.
The action here since July has increased. I was pursuing this region to work about six months ago but a few years ago many of the ex-employees of Trump moved down to some of the poker rooms down south and I kept in communication with them. But it was mainly after July when I saw that this market was going to grow when the limits changed. I knew that I would eventually settle down here. … Who wouldn’t want to be in sunny Florida where you can just wake up on a mid-January day and you can look out and the sun is coming up and it’s going to be 70 degrees and you don’t have to be back in Chicago worrying about the snow?
What can someone with your experience bring to a room like Daytona now that the limits have been lifted? Being a poker player myself, I understand what the poker players’ needs are. They know how the industry works. I can listen to their ideas and suggestions and implement any promotions based on what the player wants, rather than what we think we can offer. … There are many ideas, and with any business we want to make sure we analyze it carefully before we promote it. Being able to provide the players with just a comfortable environment, where they can be part of the poker room; we want to make this a destination where players can come here, and being in Daytona Beach, it is a tourist attraction, we want them to have a place to play poker where they know we have standardized rules and promotions are similar to what’s offered in the United States.
What can a player expect from a room run by Dominic Niro? I feel they have to be comfortable, and that our dealers, our brushes, our staff and our floor people are friendly. Back when poker exploded in the early 2000s, people flocked to these poker rooms. Just like the World Cup in 1994 where mothers were scrambling to get their kids into soccer, now these kids are scrambling to get their mothers in the poker room. A lot of them come here and they don’t know where to sign up, they don’t know what games are offered. When we have a knowledgeable staff that can welcome and get the players comfortable I’ll guarantee you they will come back.
Do you enjoy playing poker? I’m a limit player. I love tournaments, but for me to go play in a tournament, you have to dedicate a good five or six hours. I like getting into a medium or small no-limit game knowing I could hit a good run of cards. I’m not the type of guy that can sit there because I have so many things going on. I like playing more leisurely rather than like a professional.
— Next month we’ll meet William Mason, director of poker operations at Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, followed by Roger Coscarat at Ocala in May.