Archived: Casino Celebrates its 25th Year


On the day Commerce Casino opened its doors, Hector Reza was trying not to sweat.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says. He had been hired as a security guard a couple weeks prior while finishing touches were still going up on the casino, which had been Western-themed at the time.

The casino opened on the first of August in 1983, and he was in charge of a long line of people clamoring to get in.

“It was extremely hot,” he says. “I was wearing the security uniform with long sleeves and a tie because it was required, and you had to be presentable,” he says. “Your tie clip had to be just right and your little buttons better be lined up with your tie clip.”

Reza, now an executive officer in charge of the housekeeping department, has seen the entire life of the Commerce Casino from its relatively humble beginnings 25 years ago.

Community Relations Director Debbie Payne, another 25-year employee who was first hired as a secretary, knew those beginnings intimately.

“I literally taped Christmas decorations to those walls. I Scotch taped them on,” she says.

Now, the casino hires professional decorators, and flat-screen televisions line the walls.

Gone are the dark lighting and brown wooden interiors. The Chuck Wagon restaurant and the Watering Hole bar have been replaced by a Chinese cuisine buffet.

The casino has expanded three times, to the point where it is now among the largest card rooms in the world. The decoration has been entirely retrofitted with a “faux Assyrian” theme to match the Crowne Plaza hotel that was added to the building seven years ago.

The casino has also become an institution in the City of Commerce. It offers major scholarships to local students and sponsors major city events and functions. Its most recent gesture involved fundraising for the travel and lodging expenses of three Commerce athletes who qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The casino has also grown as an employer, increasing from 500 employees to its current 2,800 employees. And among those employees, 28, including Reza and Payne, have stayed on since the beginning. They include a vice president, managers, floor people, dealers, and food service workers.

The casino has also been able to ride the wave of poker’s popularity in California, successfully establishing its stature in the international poker scene. It is among the top card rooms for serious poker players, and its location in the Los Angeles area makes it a popular but low-key spot for celebrities like Ben Affleck, who won the 2004 California State Poker Championships held there.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, the Casino is treating its serious poker players to an additional $2,500, $10,000, or $25,000, depending on the day, to its daily tournament pots.

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