Thousands flock to Aqueduct to test their day one luck

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John Fazio of Howard Beach shows off his winnings - more than $200. Photo by Christina Santucci
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (r.) greets Lady Gaga look-alike Renee Cole. Photo by Christina Santucci
Pedro Velzquez is the first patron allowed in at 1 p.m. Photo by Christina Santucci
Renee Cole, a Lady Gaga impersonator, shows off her poker face at the Resorts World New York opening. Photo by Christina Santucci
Teresita Solima of Flushing tries her luck at Resorts World New York. Photo by Christina Santucci
Joanne Brown of Jamaica tries her luck. Photo by Christina Santucci
Donovan Richards greets Congressman Gregory Meeks. Photo by Christina Santucci
Inga Seamon (l.) sits with Michelle and Pat (r.) Walton.
Daisy Rodriguez (r.) of Jamaica tries her luck at the Resorts World New York opening. Photo by Christina Santucci
John Barkley takes a moment to look around. Photo by Christina Santucci
Thousands attended the opening of Resorts World New York. Photo by Christina Santucci
Genting Chairman KT Lim speaks during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
Carlyle Otten, from America Works, a job-assistance program, attends the opening. Photo by Christina Santucci
Former Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (l.) is given a tour. Photo by Christina Santucci
Hundreds wait on line to get in. Photo by Christina Santucci
Julie Brill of Floral Park meets an Elvis look-alike. Photo by Christina Santucci
Traffic builds on Rockaway Boulevard during opening day. Photo by Christina Santucci

The owners of the Aqueduct racino in Ozone Park hit the jackpot Friday when thousands of gamblers flooded the only video gambling casino in the city on its opening day.

“I feel kind of lucky,” said Yolanda Carta, who had been waiting in the cold outside Resorts World Casino New York since 9 a.m., four hours before the official opening. “It’s not too cold to win money.”

Gamblers began waiting in line as early as 7 a.m. to get into the casino, and when the doors finally opened at 1 p.m., people were cheering and running toward the escalators with hands raised like they had already won.

By the time opening weekend had drawn to a close, 65,000 people had tried their hand at the video lottery terminals, which are similar to slot machines.

The second floor, known as Times Square Casino, is as loud as it is colorful.

Red recessed lighting in the high ceilings and the multi-colored carpet below act as two bookends to the cacophony from video lottery terminals, which were legalized in New York state a decade ago.

As Blena Tullock rode the escalator up to the second floor for the first time, she gasped.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Now I don’t have to go to Atlantic City.”

Others squealed with delight and hurried over to one of the blinking machines with names like “Wheel of Fortune” or “Thundering Buffalo.”

Ida Brasie and Pat Keighron live near the casino and were invited to take a test run of the casino Monday night.

They parked themselves in front of the same machines, which had paid dividends when the stakes were play money in hopes of finding their luck again Friday afternoon.

“They gave us play money and we had a great time,” Brasie said. “We just want to have fun. You have to know your limits.”

Although some of the gamblers were losing cash, Michael Speller, president of Resorts World New York, touted the economic benefits for the community at a ribbon-cutting a few hours earlier. He reminded the audience that the casino, which was built within a year, currently employed 1,110 people and will take on another 200 in the future — like Catherine Rodriguez, who was poised with a drinks tray before the doors were released, 70 percent of the employees are from Queens, according to Speller.

Many of the gamblers were, too. By 2 p.m., an open slot machine was hard to come by after about 3,500 people had gone to the casino, according to an employee. Thousands more were waiting outside to get in, but the floor only holds a maximum of 5,000.

“This is fantastic!” said Richie Santa, who was impersonating Elvis on opening day. “I feel like I’m in Vegas.”

Many of the gamblers who filed into the racino touted it as a closer alternative to New Jersey’s Atlantic City.

But Speller said that while the racino certainly borrows its culture from Sin City, it is an experience all its own.

“You’re not going to find anything like this anywhere else,” he said.

The casino holds 2,485 machines and a food court, and the windows of the centrally located bar look out over the race track.

The casino is open from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 12:00 am, November 3, 2011
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mocha from west hempstead says:
We had a great time.... the place is beautiful, even though there was so many people on the first day it was worth the wait and some pushing and shoving to make your way in however... but what can you say....New yorkerssss. Us ladies won money too :-)
Nov. 11, 2011, 11:25 pm

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