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King City Social Club will open this spring

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - FILLING A NICHE - Mike Blum and Petra Garton, sitting in the former Anytime Fitness facility that is undergoing major remodeling, will run the King City Social Club in the King City Plaza, providing a variety of games, TV viewing, food and drinks.A new business coming into King City is so innovative that the City Council had to approve an ordinance allowing social gaming for the King City Social Club to open.

The facility, which will take over the former Anytime Fitness space in the King City Plaza, will have 10 poker tables, four bridge tables, two backgammon tables and two Pan tables (short for Panguinque, a form of rummy using eight modified decks that is played in some Nevada casinos and California poker clubs).

The King City Social Club also will feature a restaurant area, a lounge area for TV viewing, Internet kiosks and WiFi; in addition, games such as pinochle and chess may be offered as well.

Seven days a week, the facility will open at 10 a.m. for private groups and then open to the public at 11:30 a.m. and remain open until 2:30 a.m.

In mid-March, the space was more of a construction zone than a gaming club, but Wayne Blum and Petra Garton, who are co-owners along with Mike Cardoni, were more than willing to offer a tour.

"Mike and I have been friends since 1978, and we've been looking for a location like this since 1987," said Blum, who came to the Portland area in 2003 and earned an MBA and master's degree in teaching. "I was in college until 2010, and after graduation I found out that the laws had changed in Oregon to allow social gaming.

"We looked all over Portland, but I have always been interested in King City. I've been keeping an eye on this area for 2 ½ years."

Blum and Garton, who will be the social club's manager, have held every possible job in casinos and card rooms - floor manager, pit boss, chip runner, dealer, croupier and poker room manager - so they definitely have the experience to take on this venture.

Blum was happy to explain the difference between his new business and the video poker facilities located nearby: Part of the proceeds in video poker operations go to the owners and the state lottery division, while in social gaming, there are no house players, house bank or house odds, and the business is not allowed to earn any income from the operation of social games.

"We can charge daily or monthly membership fees and earn profits from the sale of beer, wine, food, drinks like coffee or soda, and snacks, but we can't make any income from the games," Blum said. "We want people to come in and socialize and be comfortable. The games, as well as the comfortable social atmosphere, provide a reason to come in.

"If that isn't enough, we will also provide free airing of major sports events seen on pay-per-view, first-run movies when we can get them, and big screen showings of local sporting events, like Tigard High School football, basketball and baseball, University of Oregon and (yes) Oregon State football, basketball and baseball."

Blum, a graduate of the University of Oregon, added that Portland Trailblazers and Timbers games may also be shown along with Seattle Mariners baseball games. The King City Social Club will also try to televise local little league and legion baseball games, softball games from Alpenrose Stadium, and Pop Warner football games.

"We are also planning to televise - using closed circuit TV and the Internet - the final table of our major poker tournaments," Blum said. "This way, friends and family of the successful players can actually watch them as they battle for the special prizes and cash awards being offered.

"We will have tournaments and will guarantee a certain amount of the proceeds or part of the entry fees plus a guaranteed prize pool, or major prizes in some selected events. In a free tournament, for example, the first 5,000 chips are free, and the next 5,000 will cost $20 if a player chooses to buy more chips. That $20 will go into the prize pool.

"If we guarantee a $500 prize, and we collect $700, we will return 100 percent of the prize pool. If we only collect $300 in buy-ins (re-buys and add-ons), we will still pay out the guaranteed amount, which, in this example, is $500."

Garton said that she has seen how gaming improves people's cognitive abilities.

"I have seen 100-year-old ladies playing competitive poker, bridge and Pan, and playing keeps their minds sharp, and it is also provides social interaction and entertainment, often expanding a players' social circle," she said.

To make local travel easier for seniors in King City and Summerfield, Blum said he has talked to a shuttle company about charging people $2 or $3 to take them from home to the club and return them a few hours later.

Both Blum and Garton have experience in professional food preparation and are excited about the food and drinks that will be offered at the club, including homemade pickles and chicken soup, using Blum's own private pickle recipe and his mother's recipe for chicken soup.

"I'm the soup-maker, and I come by the skill honestly," he said. "My mother taught me to make real chicken soup. I also worked in food services from 1973 to 1979 where I was a pickle-maker. We will sell hot and cold sandwiches, homemade soup, salads, muffins, fresh-baked breads and desserts, all kinds of snacks and maybe later add full dinner.

"We will also offer a variety of soft drinks, different kinds of coffee and tea, local wines, and local, national and internationally brewed beers."

If the construction project stays on schedule, Blum and Garton are planning for a soft opening of the King City Social Club in late April, with the grand opening set for late May. Once the grand opening takes place, there will be regular tournaments scheduled as often as every two or three hours.

Garton and Blum believe that by opening their business, the King City Social Club is filling a niche, because until now, gaming establishments have only been located in larger cities, including Portland, Salem, Eugene, Medford, Bend and Hillsboro, and only offer poker for their patrons.

"We will have more free tournaments than the other places offer, as well as offering games not offered in other social gaming establishments," Blum said. "We realize that with many retired seniors living in the King City/Summerfield area, many people have a limited amount of disposable income, and we want to cater to our local patrons as well as all players in the Portland/Vancouver and Salem metropolitan areas.

"I know people who play in Portland who are anxious for us to open so there will be a club closer to their homes for them and also one that offers games without the higher buy-ins. We are taking our name to heart - we want to provide a happy, fun, social experience."

And if anyone needs an added incentive to come in, Blum and Garton are keeping the rubberized floor that was installed by Anytime Fitness.

"People can come in their golf shoes," Blum said.

For more information, call Blum at 503-707-0733.

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