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California Sports Bar to Open Mini-Satellite

OC Tavern in San Clemente, the first of its kind, to begin taking wagers Dec. 17.

After months of planning approvals and construction, the OC Tavern Grill and Sports Bar, located in the Southern Orange County beach community of San Clemente, is ready to open its doors to horse players.

The mini-satellite wagering location, the first of its kind in a California eating and drinking establishment, will begin taking action Dec. 17. The horseplayers addition, dubbed the "OCT Room," is attached to the spacious main restaurant and bar and will hold about 70-75 patrons. It comes equipped with more than 25 flat-screen televisions for race watching. There is an outside smoking patio with room for another 30 customers.

“We’re very excited and there’s been a real buzz in town about this,” said the tavern’s owner, Michael Merrigan. “We’ve been known as a great neighborhood location for sporting fans to this point and I think the addition of the OCT Room will only make us more popular.”

The tavern will be the second mini-satellite location in the state, both in Southern California, under a state law approved in October 2007. The law authorizes up to 45 such facilities statewide -- 15 each in three geographic zones -- in an effort to reach players who may not be close to a racetrack or one of the 30 or so main satellite facilities located at county fairs or tribal casinos.

San Clemente, north of Del Mar and south of Los Alamitos Race Course by about 40 miles in either direction, fits perfectly into that scheme. It is located just east of Interstate 5 at the El Camino exit.

Merrigan, 45, applied for a license to operate as a wagering location soon after the California Horse Racing Board completed its regulations in compliance with the law in 2008. It is part of a renovation at the restaurant that he has envisioned since purchasing it in 2007.

The “OCT Room” will offer pari-mutuel betting on races in California and nationally featuring the same betting menu as the state's main satellite locations. Fans will be able to wager with a teller or with self-service machines there and at the adjoining patio, aided by a betting supervisor.

Mini-satellites, under the law, receive a location fee amounting to 2% of the amount wagered at the facility. There are no admission or parking charges to play at OC Tavern and the restaurant provides the food and beverage service.

The tavern will partner with Southern California Off-Track Wagering Inc., a non-profit outfit formed by representatives of the racing associations, fairs and horsemen in Southern California, to promote off-track wagering. SCOTWINC will operate and manage the betting facility in partnership with Sportech Inc., which will provide the wagering technology and support, including transaction processing services.

The OC Tavern will be the first mini-satellite to open in the state since the Commerce Casino, a card club in Los Angeles County, began in July 2009. As of October 2009, the facility reported it was handling between $60,000 to $80,000 per day in horse racing wagers.

The Commerce Casino is expected to provide an update on its facility to the CHRB at the board's Dec. 16 meeting.