Lakes Goes "All In"

Lakes Entertainment (Nasdaq: LACO  ) could be one step closer to turning a profit. Lakes, which develops and manages Native American-owned casinos and is 80%-owner of the World Poker Tour (WPT), announced yesterday that California's Sycuan Resort and Casino will be the first to debut its World Poker Tour All-In Hold 'Em table game.

This is particularly noteworthy given that the new game -- inspired by and carrying the increasingly valuable WPT brand -- is Lakes' initial foray into the table game market. And keep in mind, upstart Shuffle Master (Nasdaq: SHFL  ) has already been a high-margin success in the table game niche.

A description from the Lakes Entertainment website:

The action begins right after you make your blind ante bet. The dealer shuffles up and deals your hole cards, and just like the WPT, you decide to fold, make a raise, or go all in. If the dealer calls, you take a flop, followed by the turn, and hold your breath as the river is slowly exposed.

Sounds pretty dramatic, huh?

The game debuts this Saturday, May 22, but whether it will be as entertaining as billed is a question with no easy answer. Given the popularity of the WPT brand, however, don't be surprised if the game pops up at a Harrah's Entertainment (NYSE: HET  ) , Mandalay Resort Group (NYSE: MBG  ) , Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD  ) , or Station Casinos (NYSE: STN  ) location near you.

To be fair, popularity doesn't necessarily translate into profits. As evidence, consider the plight of Mikohn Gaming (Nasdaq: MIKN  ) , the company behind both Caribbean Stud and Pai-Gow Poker. Even though both of those games are widespread like Shuffle Master's Let It Ride and Three Card Poker, Mikohn doesn't have much of a track record when it comes to earnings.

Still, my gut feeling is that WPT All-In Hold 'Em has a decent chance. And while we can't ignore the red flags, I think this is welcome news for shareholders as we wait for Lakes' core casino projects to come to fruition.

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns shares of Lakes Entertainment.


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