02/06/2011 1:24PM

California sports bar averaging $22K in handle


The OC Tavern in San Clemente, Calif., the first sports bar to open a satellite wagering operation in California, has averaged $22,238 in handle at the current Santa Anita meeting, through Saturday, according to racing officials.

Mike Merrigan, who owns OC Tavern, said the satellite operation has averaged “about 120 customers a day.”

OC Tavern began taking bets on races in mid-December but launched a more extensive promotion to coincide with the start of the Santa Anita meeting on Dec. 26.

“It’s really building,” said Merrigan, who attended the races at Santa Anita on Saturday. “People are hearing about it everyday.”

The handle figures are believed to be slightly above projections, but Merrigan said he has focused more on customer experience.

“My concern is that everyone is having a good time,” he said.

The OC Tavern is located about 35 miles north of Del Mar and about 45 miles south of Los Alamitos, adjacent to Interstate 5.

The OC Tavern is the second satellite to open in Southern California that is not based at a fair grounds, racetracks, or Indian casino. The Commerce Casino card club, south of Los Angeles, began simulcasting in July 2009 and is planning an expansion this year, according to a representative who spoke at a California Horse Racing Board meeting in December.

As many as 45 locations are permitted in the state, but no other operators have approached the racing board for an application in recent months.