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New York's first casino opens to packed crowds

By Mick B. Krever, CNN
updated 6:23 PM EDT, Fri October 28, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Some visitors wait hours to get in to the casino in Queens
  • The casino features only video games, no live dealers
  • The state legislature paved the way for its construction during the post-9/11 economic slump

New York (CNN) -- For New Yorkers, a gambling fix is now just a subway ride away.

The first casino in New York City opened Friday at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens to thousands of eager gamblers, some waiting hours to get in.

"It was such a hassle to get in, but I'm glad I'm here," said Carmen Beverly, who said she took the subway to the casino from her home in nearby Brooklyn. "Not winning anything yet, but I'm having fun."

The Resorts World Casino hit capacity almost immediately after opening, organizers said. Lines stretched around the building as police struggled to contain hundreds of people hoping for opening-day luck.

Backers of the casino said they hope its close proximity to the airport and the subway will make it a draw for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

It is the first casino to be built in New York City since the state legislature paved the way for its construction during the post-September 11, 2001, economic slump.

"Finally New York gets money," said Helen Alamia, a slots player who said she would no longer travel to out-of-state casinos. "We're giving it to Pennsylvania and Jersey, now New York gets it, I'm very happy."

Because of a technicality in the 2001 law, the casino features only video games, no live dealers.

Nonetheless, Gordon Medenica, director of the New York Lottery, espoused the casino's contribution to state funds.

"This facility will probably increase our video lottery income by 50%," Medenica said. Video lottery is the organization's fastest-growing source of income, he said.

Some customers expressed disappointment that they would not be able to gamble with a live dealer, but most seemed happy just to have a casino nearby.

Billboards for the casino advertise it as being "minutes, not hours away," a clear swipe at the more well-known -- and farther away -- gambling sites of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Indian reservations such as Foxwoods in Connecticut.

"It's not competition with Las Vegas," said Mike Speller, president of Resorts World Casino. "We are 10 minutes from JFK -- 55 million customers a year come in there. We are 25 minutes from Manhattan -- another 50 million tourists come in there. So we think it's going to be a very, very busy place."

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