I attended the grand opening night at Resorts World Casino last Friday.
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Resorts World Casino was built by Genting Malaysia group - which was founded in 1965. Genting is a global entertainment and tourism company operating in Asia, Europe and North America. They also operate at sea through the Norwegian Cruise Line and Star Cruises brands. The Genting Group has more than 58,000 employees and this Casino is set to create at least 1500 permanent jobs. Genting won the bid to build and operate the 640,000 square foot Casino.
There were a number of concerns I had with such an operation in close proximity to my neighborhood:
#1 Casinos typically create permanent jobs within, but, they tend to also lead to depressed housing markets nearby (ex: Las Vegas and Atlantic City)
#2 Traffic on the main street, Rockaway Blvd, has been terrible for the past 11 years, and I was certain a Casino would make it worse.
#3 I am concerned with whether or not the revenue the city earns from the Casino will be a net gain or net loss considering the expenses the city may have to spend to support it.
#4 I worry that the addition of organized gambling to my area will create gambling addictions.
There are also inherent problems with RWC due to NYS law.
#1 It is illegal to give free alcoholic drinks to patrons. Meanwhile, Atlantic city, Forxwoods and Mohegan Sun – which are nearby, but, not inside NYC – can offer free drinks. Gamers can merely sit at a slot machine and order their drinks which makes spending more money easier and more appealing. My mother is one such patron who’ll easily spend $200 while sipping White Zinfandel.
#2 It is illegal to give free items and gifts. Empire city –in Yonkers – gets around this by offering you “rewards” on your “rewards card” such as shirts, bags, and other little items.
#3 It is illegal to have dealers at tables. That makes playing less exciting.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect upon getting to the Casino, but, once I was able to park my car on a neighboring side street and make it inside the crowded gates, my attitude towards the place slowly became more positive.
I’ve lived in this area for many years and it is mostly residential. It felt quite strange knowing that this level of development was coming to an overcrowded residential area where the only major buildings were a P.C. Richard, a couple of public schools, and a Home Depot, but, once I saw the level of thought and design that went into the building, I became really excited.
Resorts World Casino is located directly behind the “Aqueduct” racetrack at 110-00 Rockaway Blvd in Jamaica, NY (11420). It is relatively easy to get to by car if you live in any of the 5 boroughs and there is free parking in any one of the four expansive parking lots. Because NYC has a very well developed transportation system, there are plenty of ways to get there. The A-train can bring you to its gates from either Far Rockaway or Manhattan. The Q7 bus can bring you here from Howard Beach. There is even supposed to be a special connection made to the casino from the newly developed Air Train to take you straight here from the transportation hub at Archer Avenue and Sutphin Blvd after you get off the Long Island Railroad.
Long story short, getting here couldn’t be easier and there are multiple ways to do so.
The best thing about the easy access is that Newyorkers with gambling addictions will no longer need to drive 20 miles and pay multiple tolls to get to Empire City Casino in Yonkers, nor will we have to drive over 120 miles to get to Atlantic City, Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods.
The only downside so far for RWC is that the area it is located in, South Ozone Park, is very light on restaurants and other venues. This casino is sitting in the middle of a mostly residential area. There are some stores on the adjacent Rockaway Blvd, but, no real staples such as Red Lobster, Applebees, Boulder Creek, etc. Worse, the Italian restaurants located a mile away on Crossbay Blvd all close by midnight. There are very few fast food restaurants nearby and they don’t stay open as long as the Casino.
RWC is easily far more exciting than Empire City Casino. The Casino currently only has one level for gaming, but, it will soon open up a second level. Thought the Casino has a 15,000 capacity, I doubt it will ever see that many – aside from special celebrity appearances.
There are over 5000 electronic gambling terminals and there will be 200 electronic table games. In order to get around NYS laws that say “dealers may not operate tables”, RWC will be using “actroid” robots which look like people to run some of the tables.
The Casino is absolutely beautiful. A collage of neon lights, LEDs, attractive waitresses and gambling opportunities. Stepping inside feels like stepping off a Washington D.C. street and into the Bellagio. However, this isn’t exactly what I demand out of a Casino to make me want to gamble. I always envision Casinos with human dealers and slot machines that spit quarters. “Video slots” to me are untrustworthy and boring. As there are no physical coins in use, the room feels less lively and playing the games comes down to you simply sliding dollar bills into the machine and hoping for the best.
The major feature of RWC is the 360° Bar/grill which is located roughly near the center of the main room. This bar has a concentric circular design so that the bartenders can work in the center of the circle while patrons sit at the circular bar surrounding them. In the center of the circle is the live show stage where bands can perform high above the crowd – seen by everyone at the bar and most people in the gaming room. People upstairs can look through a large portal in the 2nd floor for an up close view of the elevated band.
You can either sit at the bar and drink while playing video poker games embedded in the table, or you can take your date to one of the sofas in the lounge areas nearby. You can even order food and have it brought to you.
RWC has a buffet area where you can sit and eat with some level of privacy, or, you can get food at one of several stores in the food court. There are sandwich makers, burger makers, Chinese/Asian food makers, Wolfgang Puck Express and even a Popeyes. The food court is good for a quick meal, but, it’s definitely not as nice as taking a date and having a few drinks with dinner at the 360° bar.
The main food court's food looks fantastic. There's a choice between chinese food, italian food, southern style food, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. Problem: the food is 100% tasteless. In my 31 years of life, I have never eaten food that was "tasteless" until now. Everything must have been lacking basic seasonings such as salt, sugar and spices. I couldn't smell the food at any distance and eating it was akin to eating food from one of The Enterprises' replicators. It looks real, but just doesn't seem real. I found myself searching for "Ace Rothstein" so he could go to the chefs and demand improvement. "An equal amount of blueberry's in each muffin..."
The expansive parking lots need a restaurant or two on premises. I suggest that RWC let an Applebees and a Dave and Busters (similar to the setup in Times Square) open up a two story restaurant on the premises. Having a Pizza Hut, Starbucks or McDonalds on premises might not hurt either. This area is devoid of good restaurants and there is more than enough space for some. In fact, having them right here would bring in business from people who weren’t necessarily planning to gamble, but, stop in just to check the place out. A 20 hour Casino needs 20 hour food sources!
I like this Casino because it is close and it makes an interesting Friday night date. Though you don’t get free drinks, food or anything else, the proximity makes it relatively easy to travel to and what you’ll save on travel fees, you can use to gamble or indulge.
I’m certain that tourists who visit NYC will make their way here, and fortunately, it’s very convenient to get to. Thanks to our transit system, a tourist could theoretically hit our museums, Times Square, our zoos and our Casino using a single metrocard fun pass and the subway.
Resorts World should breathe life into what was otherwise an aging and underused space. The Aqueduct hasn’t seen this many people in years. I just hope that tourism keeps up because, unlike a prime location such as Manhattan, a Casino in a residential neighborhood will always be just that.
I just hope it doesn’t cause too many social stressors to pop up in what’s typically been a quiet area. Gambling and drinking next to the school my cousin goes too just seems problematic.
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