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Casino ready to let the gaming begin.

Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

FLORENCE - The good folks at Three Rivers Casino like their chances - if they can just get you through the front door.

That's why they're offering a host of enticements, including free valet parking, in order to lure you into the casino that opens later this month.

Once inside, you'll find the noise, neon and stimuli-inciting hubbub you'd expect to find when slots, slots and more slots - 260 in all - are crammed into 15,500 square feet of tent space, along with six blackjack tables, two restaurants and a sports bar.

And yes, we said tent space. The casino is actually a light-green Mylar tent, sufficiently insulated to separate the whoops of joy on the inside from any swirling sandstorms on the outside.

The casino, brought to you by the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians (hence the "Three Rivers" name), is actually the third smallest of what are now nine Indian casinos in the state.

"It's not big, but it's nice," says tribal member Bob Garcia, the casino's director of economic development. "Everything here is state-of-the-art."

He's not kidding - right down to the chairs that make you feel like you're sitting in an expensive car's plush bucket seat. They twirl, they roll, they adjust to your height as you focus on the one-size-fits-all slot machine in front of you.

And, those slots: We're talking machines that can talk back to you, machines that look like TV production room consoles, machines that suddenly invite you to guess which racing penguin will come in first and award you the most "bonus points."

They're all "ticket-in, ticket -out," which means you don't have to hassle with little buckets of coins - and can rest your feet on built-in footrests near where a coin tray would otherwise be. (There are, however, a few "one-armed bandits" for traditionalists who will always equate playing slots with pulling a lever.)

Most of the slots offer multiple ways to win - matching three 7s, cherries or other icons across any of three rows or diagonally, for example. `243 ways to win!" the sign on one machine boasts.

Two banks of machines - the Cash Express Penny Train and the Millioni$er - come with animated cartoons on screens promising periodic jackpot payouts. The Jeff Foxworthy "You Might Be a Redneck" bank of slots delivers winnings if you line up three outhouses, jalopies or beer cans in a row.

As for value, these are mostly low-stake slots - sort of. More than 20 percent of the machines are penny slots, and you have to look hard for the handful of dollar slot machines on the floor. But the low denominations can be deceiving, since the smallest wager you can stick into a machine is a $1 bill - good for 100 plays on a penny slot, for example.

Visitors who join the casino's Players Club, meanwhile, receive a special card they can insert in any slot - and earn "bonus points" on the basis of how long and how much they bet. One sign of the casino's potential popularity: More than 3,500 people already have applied for Players Club cards.

If the slots seem too tame, there's always the blackjack tables, where the minimum bet is $5. Minimums at some tables could climb, however, at peak hours when all 42 blackjack seats are in use.

There's no roulette or craps or poker - although that could all change if the casino proves as successful as the tribes expect, leading to a bigger, more permanent structure somewhere on adjacent property, perhaps as soon as 2006.

But at this juncture, the casino sees itself as a "players' club" rather than a destination resort - attracting local regulars from up and down the coast and from Eugene-Springfield.

That's why the focus is on low-stakes games, and why a billboard tells Willamette Valley visitors returning home via Highway 126: "Don't worry, you can always come back."

Jeff Wright can be reached at 338-2366 or jwright@guardnet .com.

HOW TO GET THERE

Location: The casino's entrance is on Highway 126, east of its intersection with Highway 101; optional free valet parking.

Hours: 24 hours a day; open to Players Club members June 20-21 and the general public later in month (exact date not yet determined); 21 and older.

Details: (541) 997-PLAY, www.threeriverscasino.com

SLOTS

Machines: Total of 260. They allow wagers in increments of 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 25 cents and $1. Machines accept $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills. Example: $1 buys 100 credits on a penny machine. Bettors can wager up to $2 at once on a penny machine. Some machines are "multi-denom," allowing a bettor to choose from among several denominations at once (1 cent, 2 cents or 5 cents, for example).

"Ticket in, ticket out": That means no coins drop in the tray at the bottom of the slot. Winners instead receive a ticket, which they can slide into any other slot for continued play. Players can "cash out" by pressing a red button on the slot to summon a casino host, using one of two ticket redemption machines on the floor or visiting the cashier's window.

Other features: Most slots have a second-screen feature, which allows players to interact with the machine in quest of extra bonus points or free games. Some machines also address or even "speak" to players by name.

Are you comfortable? Slot chairs, valued at $300 each, are on rollers, spin around, adjust to a player's height. Machines feature footrests where coin trays used to be.

BLACKJACK

Capacity: Six tables, seven seats to table.

Limits: Minimum $5 bet, maximum $500 bet per hand.

House rules: Dealer hits on soft 17, stands on hard 17.

PLAYERS CLUB

How to apply: Register online at www.threeriverscasino.com or at the Players Club counter at the casino (turn left as you enter the front doors). No charge to join.

How to use: Insert the club card into slot machines

Perks: Club members receive bonus points, good for free cash bonuses, prizes and drawings. Points are based on how long members play, how much they wager and other factors. Members receive information on future promotions. Charter members also get an invitation to pre-public opening, chances for a car giveaway, $10 in house money and a book of discounts to Florence venues.

DINING

777 Cafe: Table seating for seafood, steak, salads, desserts.

One-Eyed Jack's Sports Bar: One 120-inch TV screen and two 42-inch plasma TV screens. Beer, hard liquor (no alcoholic beverages allowed on gaming floor).

Winner's Express: Snack foods and nonalcoholic drinks, which are allowed on gaming floor.

CAPTION(S):

Blackjack tables and a wide variety of slot machines fill the gaming room at Three Rivers Casino near Florence. Kevin Clark / The Register-Guard The casino entrance is almost ready for next week's opening.
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Register Guard
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Gambling; After much debate, the Florence casino will open next weekend
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 11, 2004
Words:1140
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