Resort at Aqueduct aims to 'wow' after October open
For gamblers itching to take on Lady Luck, it’s only a matter of weeks before the sound of construction at the site of the city’s first casino gives way to the rattle and racket of gaming machines.
“It’s a showcase property for us,” Michael Speller, CEO of Resorts World Casino New York, said during a tour this month of the hollowed-out gaming hall in South Ozone Park, Queens.
“We’re here to wow our customers. This is more than a slots-in-a-box,” he added, referring to the frumpy perception of other state-sanctioned casinos located at racetracks, or “racinos.” Resorts World is located at the Aqueduct Racetrack.
The property is scheduled to open in early October, and while it won’t have the live table games associated with lavish casinos in Las Vegas, that isn’t stopping its developers from pulling out all the stops for what will be the largest project of its kind in New York, at nearly 1.5 million square feet.
Big Apple theme
The casino’s floors arebeing molded into distinctly iconic spots in New York.
The main gaming floor, which will have 2,280 video lottery terminals and 205 electronic table games, is referred to as “Times Square” — complete with a glut of TV screens and eateries.
Another floor is dubbed “Fifth Avenue,” and will house two fine-dining restaurants, one featuring Cantonese cuisine and the other a steakhouse and wine bar.
Speller said they also hope to attract entertainment to the venue, and the third floor — called “Central Park” — will feature 130,000 square feet of event space to hold concerts and receptions.
The project’s developer, Genting New York, put an initial $830 million investment into the project. Officials are anticipating the creation of 1,150 permanent jobs and an estimated $300 million in annual tax revenue to state coffers, which would be used to fund education.
Speller said another 1% of pre-tax profits must be funneled back to the local community, a working-class neighborhood in need of an economic lift.
But Betty Braton, chairwoman of the area’s Community Board 10, said concerns will remain once the casino is finished, including traffic and policing in the surrounding residential neighborhood. Genting held meetings with the community prior to building.
“For the most part, there has not been a groundswell of opposition to it,” Braton said. “People are certainly looking forward to the employment it will create.”
More jobs would be created if the casino were one day allowed to offer card and dice games, which are not legal at New York’s eight racinos under the state constitution. Gov. Andrew Cuomo could change that, announcing this month that his administration is studying whether legalizing live gaming would make financial sense.
There also are worries about crime and the gambling addiction associated with casino gaming, which opponents have cited as reasons not to allow it.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said that expanding the city’s first casino must be seriously considered at a time when neighboring states have full-fledged gaming halls and New York continues to lose gamblers’ business.
“Resorts World has to be competitive ... [so] we can draw more tourism and be another destination in New York,” Addabbo said.
Good Gambles: Spots near Aqueduct
Visitors to the soon-to-open Resorts World Casino New York at Aqueduct will want to check out some of the local sights before or after their date with the slot machines.
One way to pick up local flavor is to explore the offerings on Cross Bay Boulevard.
Here’s a sampling:
156-40A Cross Bay Blvd. 718-738-2022
For those looking for a dressier night out, check out the Peruvian cuisine offered at Sabrosito. The rotisserie chicken here is the toast of the menu, which also features traditional Spanish dishes.
The Old Time Vincent’s Clam Bar & Italian Restaurant of Howard Beach
159-13 Cross Bay Blvd. 718-835-4458
Since opening in 1981, this classic Italian restaurant has been serving up its famous sweet, medium and hot tomato sauces to locals along with a variety of fresh seafood dishes.
Sugar Bun Café and Bakery
156-22 Cross Bay Blvd. 718-843-9233
Quaint, cute, and nostalgic: This bake shop and café has been around for 50 years. Recently renovated to include a sit-in dining area, it boasts the “best rugelach around” and a big breakfast and lunch.
158-36 Cross Bay Blvd. 718-323-9986
Feeling daring and rebellious? Get inked up or pierced in this veteran tattoo shop that offers microdermal piercings. It’s open seven days a week and has late-night hours.
Crossbay Fishing Station
158-35 Cross Bay Blvd. 718-843-3800
This full tackle shop meets all of your fishing needs for a day out on one of Captain Luna’s rental boats, which you’ll find next door.