SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A sleek card room that reopened Friday in the South Bay could be just the beginning of an entertainment transformation for San Jose, but is already at the center of a labor dispute.
The new Bay 101 Casino opened its doors on North 1st Street. And city officials is ready to cash in.
Just a mile from the airport and down the street from the competing Casino M8trix, the gambling house is hoping to become more than just a destination for gamblers.
The casino’s grand re-opening was filled with cards, chips and controversy.
About 30 former employees of the old Bay 101 picketed the main entrance, accusing management of dumping long-standing workers.
“We just got laid off because they subcontracted the kitchen,” said laid-off worker Nellie Figueroa. “But the reality is we don’t match with their fancy look of the new casino.”
Rich Alvari with Bay 101 disputed that statement.
“That’s not accurate,” said Alvari
Alvari says the casino contracted all food and beverage service to the Cris Yeo Group, which will open a new restaurant called the Providence in about two weeks.
It is non-union, but he said employees were invited to re-apply.
“We really just wanted to focus on gaming and really just turn the food and beverage over to someone who’s better at it than we were,” explained Alvari
The new casino is 68,000 square feet, feng shui certified and has 49 poker tables. That is the same number permitted by San Jose at the old club.
Still, players said it feels cramped compared to the old club.
“It’s the same because you’re still playing cards, but it looks smaller,” said customer Antonio Gonzales.
It is just down the block from the high-rise Casino M8trix, which has a more glitzy, Las Vegas appearance.
Bay 101 will eventually add an Embassy Suites, an office building and a second hotel, making this a sort of San Jose strip for club hoppers.
“It’s hopefully going to be a hub of industry and entertainment,” said San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis.
Khamis said San Jose has regulated card clubs since the 1920’s. They generate $18 million a year in taxes, which covers about two thirds of the city library budget.
When asked how comfortable he was funding libraries with money generated by gambling, Khamis replied, “It’s a legal form of entertainment in San Jose, much like serving alcoholic beverages. We tax it, regulate it and make sure that everything is being done honestly and openly.”