The first stage – the Times Square Casino – opened on Friday, October 28 as tens of thousands of visitors from near and far poured into South Ozone Park to experience Queens’ and New York City’s first casino on its first day.
RWNY officials along with New York Lottery officials, local elected officials, community leaders and employees cut the ribbon to unveil the casino at about 12:00 p.m. and the casino was officially open to the public at 1:00 p.m.
“We are thrilled to welcome the public to this extraordinary new entertainment venue,” said RWNY President, Michael Speller.
Long lines of excited, anxious would-be patrons – as many as 5,000 to 10,000 – assembled outside of the facility waiting anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours to enter. By nightfall, it was filled to capacity with 5,000 people, all coming and going.
The 190,000-square foot New York City Casino is the first stage of the overall RWNY facility.
The first-floor casino offers a food court with restaurants like Wolfgang Puck Express and Queens Burger, 2,485 VLTS, 205 electronic table games including Roulette and Craps, a buffet restaurant, the Bar 360 Lounge and panoramic views of the Aqueduct racetrack. Visitors can access the facility via the A Train and the Q37 bus, which has a stop on the property. Shuttle buses are also available as well as Access-A-Ride vans. And visitors will soon be able to use the skybridge, which is being constructed and will run from the A Train North Conduit Station to the facility.
According to Speller, the Fifth Avenue Casino and the VIP Crockfords Casino on the second floor will open in six weeks. The 130,00 square-foot Central Park Events Center on the third floor will open soon after, culminating the overall opening of RWNY by year’s end.
The casino’s opening coincides with the 10-year mark of VLTs being signed into law in New York State. On October 29, 2001, state legislators passed a law allowing video lottery gaming at racetracks. It also comes one year to the day after its groundbreaking last October.
“And exactly one year later we are gathered here witnessing one of the largest job creation outlets for New York,” said Genting Chairman and Chief Executive, KT Lim.
According to Speller, the casino has employed, 1,400 construction workers for the first stage. And currently, about 1,100 people are employed. When the second stage opens, 1,350 people will work at Resorts World.
Also according to Speller, about 41,000 people applied for jobs at Resorts World. Nine out of 10 employees are from the five boroughs, 70 percent come from Queens and 90 percent are minority and female workers.
“We’ve always heard over the years, all these pie-in-the-sky ideas about what could go on at this site, but all of them end today,” said Senator Joe Addabbo. “To witness a dilapidated area become vibrant again with people, with jobs, to see an empty parking lot or an un-utilized space become an economic engine for our community, for our city, for our state – it’s a great thing.”
On the heels of the opening, a recent poll by the New York Gaming Association shows that 58 percent of residents in New York State support legalization of casino gambling. That poll also shows that 40 percent are opposed to full casino gaming. Another poll issued by Quinnipiac University shows that New Yorkers favored full casino gambling, 56 percent to 37 percent.
According to Addabbo, state leaders, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo have indicated their support for the legalization of gambling in the state. He wants to initiate the discussion in Albany to advance the New York State Constitutional change to allow full gaming.
Revenues from the VLT’s, which are operated by the New York State Lottery, will go toward the State Education Fund, allowing millions of dollars to pour into education for New York State. Resorts World expects $350 million in annual tax revenue to go to the state to support education.
First-timers visiting the casino on the first day were impressed.
“So far it’s fabulous, the setting is nice,” said Hazel Bartley, a Canarsie resident who used to frequent the Aqueduct races.
Monica Gopaul was glad she saw it on opening day. “It’s good to have a casino in Queens so we don’t have to travel too far,” said the Queens Village resident. “And Yonkers doesn’t have any table games so it’s good to have that here.”
Willie Mapp and his wife, Shirley also enjoyed their first encounter.
“I think it’s a nice place,” he said. The retired J.F.K. worker is planning to visit it often.
But not all are too welcoming. Safety concerns have been raised at recent Community Board 10 meetings and some residents who live in the vicinity are concerned that the casino might bring other unwanted problems.
“Is it going to bring prostitution? We’re worried about the safety of our homes, the value of hour homes,” said one resident who lives on 107th Street, near to the casino.
Councilman Eric Ulrich and Senator Addabbo have both called for more permanent police in the 106th Precinct to help keep the area safe. According to Kenneth Zorn, the 106th Precinct community affairs officer, the request made to the NYPD headquarters to place more permanent cops at the precinct is still under review.