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Sunday, November 13, 2011
Economy good at Resorts World NYC

By Bob Ehalt

Whoever said there’s a weak economy apparently has yet to pay a visit to the Resorts World Casino New York City at Aqueduct.

Two weeks after introducing the terms Video Lottery Terminals (VLT) and Electronic Table Games (ETG) to the Big Apple lexicon, the casino’s row after row of video slot machines continue to draw more traffic than the Long Expressway at rush hour and turn the kind of profit that would make Bill Gates proud.

A walk around the casino last Sunday verified the glowing reports about the way New Yorkers have welcomed the nearly 2,500 VTLs and ETGs with open arms -- not to mention open pocketbooks and wallets.

Luck could be measured in two ways that evening. One involved how well you fared with the slots.

The other consisted of trying to a find an open seat at a machine without walking a couple laps around the gaming floor. Good luck doing that.

And forget playing virtual roulette, craps or sic bo, unless you had a lot of time to kill waiting to play. Those games had far fewer machines and much deeper lines of people waiting to play.

Financial figures from the casino’s first full week of operation (Oct. 30 -- Nov. 5) indicate there’s clearly no reason to believe the casino will be anything but a huge success. The weekly win, or profit, from the 2,485 machines was listed at $10,186,336 by the New York State Lottery, which oversees all casinos in the state. Prior to the opening, a weekly take of about $7 or $8 million was projected.

To put that figure in context, the existing Empire City casino had a win of $10,798,193 during the same week with more than double the machines (5,390). Looking closer at those numbers, the win at Empire City was off by about $2 million that week, a drop of about 16 percent.

Given the limited competition for the Resorts World casino and the novelty of it, the new gambling palace promises to attract new people day after day and month after month.

And why not? People should like what they find there.

As casinos go, Resorts World NYC does not break new ground. It offers all of the glitz and glamour that you’ll find at Atlantic City, Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and even the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, though the newness of the facility gives it more sparkle.

Let’s face it, if you’ve seen and heard the bells, buzzers and tunes from one slot machine, you’ve seen and heard them all.

Still, Resorts World NYC already offers a pleasing blend of gambling and amenities, and there’s much more to come in the months ahead. There’s a food court and a first-class buffet, though visitors have yet to pick up on the difference between the two. On a Sunday evening, there were 15 people on line at the Popeye’s stand while there was no wait at the buffet.

Now, I know that you can’t beat Popeye’s biscuits, but all the shrimp, crab, steak, cake, beverages (need I continue?) you can eat for $20 is a great deal, folks.

There’s also a lounge area called the Bar 360, which is, think 360 degrees, circular. In the middle of it is a gargantuan 16' x 28' HD television screen, which was showing football at the time. Though the big screens at Yankee Stadium and MetLife Stadium had crisper displays, the crowds watching the game didn’t seem to mind. Prices for alcoholic beverages were quite reasonable, giving neighborhood people a reason to visit the casino even if they do not want to pour their hard-earned cash in the slot machines.

Before the year is over, additional levels will be opened, offering more areas for high-end gambling and dining as well as entertainment and adding to the reasons why people should visit the facility.

Access from the racetrack to the casino, which is located in the area that used to be Aqueduct’s grandstand, was recently opened, enhancing the bond between the racetrack and casino. Patrons who frequent a casino on a regular basis might be surprised to find out there actually parts of the casino where you can look outside and view the racetrack. Seeing the outside world may be a no-no at most casinos where operators want customers to forget about the time of day, but at Resorts World NYC it’s a part of the landscape.

You can even walk outside to a long deck that extends for the length of the stretch and offers a nice view of the races and toteboard. There’s nowhere in the casino to bet on the races right now, but in time that will change as there are plans to add a sports bar that will house an area for simulcasting.

Even more importantly, about $30 million or perhaps even $40 million of the profit from the casino is expected to be handed over to NYRA for purses and improvements, and that much cash will have a profound impact on the quality of racing.

Whether the casino will boost the racetrack’s fan base is debatable. Walking into the track that day there were about 3 or 4 people heading into the Big A while a couple of hundred yards away 30 or 40 people were walking into the casino.

As the casino grows, and it reaches its full allotment of nearly 5,000 slots, that ratio will probably grow more disproportionate. That may not be the most optimistic of thoughts for the racing industry, but as long as a large chunk of the casino’s take winds up in NYRA’s coffers, all will be well.

In this economy, any source of revenue, be it from sic bo or a superfecta, is good news indeed.