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|Casino Boosts Business at Boston Billiard Club|
|Published Wednesday, July 12, 2017|
A crowded night at the tables at Boston Billiard Club & Casino. Courtesy photo.
In its heyday in the 90s, Boston Billiard Club boasted six locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island before opening in Nashua in 2000. “There was a huge demand for pool,” says Kurt Mathias, who co-owns the business with his wife Susan. “We found the right mix of private function rooms and club atmosphere rather than the old pool halls.”
But that was their heyday. Mathias blames statewide smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and bars for the demise of his pool business. “It hit first in Massachusetts. In the first year [of the smoking ban in 2004] the three Massachusetts stores were down more than $1 million in pool time,” Mathias says.
As smoking bans spread to other states, Boston Billiard Club continued to see its business shrink, Mathias says. The couple sold some of their operations, closed others and focused on their Nashua location, which was its most successful.
But by 2007, NH had expanded its smoking ban and the loss of business forced the couple to reduce the number of pool tables in Nashua from 35 to 21. “We were trying to reinvent the business. We were in a tough situation. We had a lot of real estate. These places are huge,” Kurt Mathias says. “We had been trying to rack our brains for years to utilize the space we had. We thought about bowling alleys, an indoor driving range.”
Kurt Mathias, owner. Photo by Matthew J. Mowry
And then a deliveryman suggested charitable gaming. In 2010, the couple secured a charitable gaming license from the state but met with political resistance and, by 2012, their license had lapsed. When new city leadership was elected, the couple found a more favorable reception for their business plan. At the same time, Rockingham Park in Salem and its gaming operations closed, allowing Boston Billiard Club to hire skilled talent who knew the industry.
This past November, the business launched its casino and rebranded as Boston Billiard Club & Casino, featuring 15 poker tables as well as roulette, blackjack, Mississippi Stud and Let it Ride, in addition to its pool tables. And it now hosts corporate and private parties for up to 600 people.
The business has taken off once again, with staff growing from 30 to 120 in barely six months. By fall, Mathias expects his employee count to reach between 150 and 170. The club’s food sales have increased 150 percent since the casino opened and Mathias says revenue generated by the casino has already exceeded expectations by almost 50 percent.
State law requires 35 percent of charitable gaming proceeds go to a charity registered with the NH Lottery Commission. As of press time, Boston Billiard Club & Casino had donated $668,972 to local charities this year. The state receives 10 percent of gambling proceeds (so far the casino has paid $146,000 in state taxes) and 55 percent is kept by the business. Mathias estimates first year casino revenue will be about $2.6 million with another $750,000 generated from food and beverages. He says the biggest challenge now facing the business is there are too few gaming tables. “We need to double the pit size,” he says.
The casino sees an average of 200 gamblers per day on weekdays and 500 per day on weekends. For more information, visit bostonbilliardclubcasino.com.
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