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Businesses hope to cash in at World Series of Poker in Las Vegas

The World Series of Poker winners won’t be the only ones leaving the Rio next week with riches.

A handful of specialty businesses — from makers of poker cards and felt to massage therapists, dietitians, portable toilet providers and cryptocurrency dealers — will also be cashing in. The Rio will also generate revenue as the host.

The WSOP, which runs from May 30 until July 22, attracts about 50,000 ”unique” poker players to the Rio over that time span, including nearly 8,000 during the peak period from July 8 through July 11, according to Seth Palansky, a spokesman for the tournament.

It helps keep the hotel humming during the slow summer period for convention business.

‘’We are keeping the hotel rooms, the restaurants and shows filled,” said Palansky.

The Rio boosts its room rates during the peak tournament period from July 6 through Tuesday. Sunday’s promo rate of $329 falls to $49 just one week later while Monday’s $212 rate drops to $40, according to a marketing email by Caesars Entertainment Corp., owner of the Rio.

The WSOP is also keeping cash ATM operators busy. The Rio has added three ATMs near the convention floor where WSOP is being held to ensure players can extract some of the $72 million in tournament entry fee. But it’s not just cash players need.

CashBot, a bitcoin trading operation, is offering to convert WSOP players’ cash winnings to the cryptocurrency for a 7.9 percent fee. Losers needing more cash can sell their bitcoin to CashBot for a 5.9 percent fee.

“Poker players can run into liquidity issues while traveling,” said Alex Pryor, a WSOP player who founded CashBot last month.

Pryor said clients have mainly been converting sums more than $10,000. Peter Klamka, owner of Bitcoin Direct LLC, said monthly turnover at his bitcoin ATM near the Rio rises to about $50,000 from $20,000 during the WSOP period.

WSOP has to invest millions to keep the tournament running smoothly, from updating equipment and furniture to expanding mobile coverage.

The tournament orders more than a thousand new chairs each year and has Las Vegas-based The Layout Co. put a fresh layer of felt on all 500 poker tables. It also orders 104,000 packs of poker cards from Brazil-based Copag. The packs retail for $16 and up.

Protein Shakes, Toilets, Massages

Poker players have been turning to healthier foods and supplements to maintain stamina over 12 hours of play time, said Palansky. Sales of pan pizzas declined so much over the years the Rio stopped offering them. Demand for fruit and organic foods has risen.

“This is not a Friday night of fun,” said Palansky. “Poker players want more healthy options.”

The change in players’ eating habits has helped give rise to All American Dave, a food truck providing meals such as grass-fed beef burgers, wild Alaskan salmon, vegetables and organic fruit protein shakes specifically for WSOP.

Owner David Swanson says he sells about 600 to 700 meals a day at around $25 each. He expects to pull in as much as $750,000 during the WSOP.

Players want to take care of their bodies as much as their minds while hunkered down in their chairs. Professional Massage Inc., a Las Vegas-based company offering massage services at casinos and malls, has more than 400 therapists working the WSOP tournament to meet demand for body rubs. Professional Massage charges $2 per minute.

Some players can request massages as long as two hours, especially if they are winning, said Professional Massage Vice President Tori Sadiki. They may also request the same therapist the following day if they won.

“Sometimes players are very superstitious,” she said.

Toilets, Uber AirBnB

While supplements and massages can help players relieve their stress, only they can relieve themselves. Unfortunately, they all tend to do it at the same time, during the 15 to 20 minute break in play that occurs every two hours.

More than 90 percent of players are men. That potentially turns a trip to the men’s restroom into an agonizingly long wait.

The WSOP has ordered 2 trailers with 22 portable toilets from POSH Restrooms to relieve the problem. A trailer of toilets costs about $5,000 a week, according to Posh Restrooms.

“The first couple of breaks is really the main crush,” said Palansky of the bathroom dash.

Professional Massage, which normally has about 200 full-time therapists, hires temporary workers from outside the state to fill demand during WSOP. The tournament faces a similar issue with dealers, said Palansky. WSOP will hire out-of-state workers to fill some of the 2,100 temporary jobs.

Some of those temporary therapists and dealers will find long-term housing through AirBnB and use share-riding services like Uber and Lyft to get around town.

Contact Todd Prince at 702 383-0386 or tprince@reviewjournal.com. Follow @toddprincetv on Twitter.

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