Blackjack is already booming at the Mazatzal Casino and it is only in its first week of operation.
People aren't standing in line to play, but the new venture is doing better than expected, according to Jim Gannarelli, manager of the Tonto Apache Tribe's casino.
"It's starting out right. We're seeing a lot of new faces. So far it's been very positive. People are glad the state has allowed live blackjack. It's being very well received," he said.
Blackjack is a card game in which the player tries to accumulate cards with a total count closer to 21 than the dealer.
The new game is currently providing jobs for 21 dealers, all but two had no prior experience with it, and 18 were already employees of the casino, who took advantage of the opportunity to learn a new job skill.
"They could now go to 100 different places around the country to work," Gannarelli said.
Mazatzal Casino has six blackjack tables operating between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.
"We will stay later if there are hot tables. We've stayed until 5 a.m. three times already," Gannarelli said.
He said the casino has a few different rules for its blackjack tables. There is only a $3 minimum bet to play, they have four deck shoes, and "We have the most liberal game rules in the state."
The tables are in the former poker room, though the casino kept one poker table for play. Equipment to minimize the tobacco smoke has been installed and, "We have the most comfortable blackjack chairs you can buy," Gannarelli said.
A lot of time and money was spent to bring the game into the casino. In addition to the years spent getting Proposition 202 passed, allowing the gaming compacts to continue and incorporate live blackjack, it took almost three months and about $200,000 to get the game going.
"There is a tremendous amount of regulation for internal controls, gaming rules and surveillance training and equipment to meet all the state's regulations," Gannarelli said.
All totaled, the game created 30 new jobs at the casino with the dealer, management and supervision positions, he said. In the near future, another 15 jobs could be added if trade goes as expected by summer.
The maximum number of tables the casino would put in play is 12 to 16 more, and that addition would about double the number of employees serving the game.
"We know it will add economic benefit to the community, with people staying in local motels more. It's good for local business," Gannarelli said.
Gannarelli said look for a casual and relaxed atmosphere at the Payson casino --is dealers are not playing a lot of fast hands.
A formal grand opening for the blackjack addition at the casino is being planned for the future, he said.