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City Welcomes First 'Racino' At Aqueduct Racetrack

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New York City is betting on a new source of revenue.

Huge crowds gathered at the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack -- which finally opened its doors in Queens on Friday after a decade of controversy.

The ribbon was cut at noon and an hour later the crowd was let through the doors.

In 15 minutes, the casino had a full house.

"It's gorgeous," Ozone Park resident Eva Novoa told CBS 2's Tony Aiello. "And we don't have to travel that far."

1010 WINS' Mona Rivera reports


Virginia Hayes, of Jamaica, was among those first in line for the opening hoping to be among the first to win a jackpot.

"I'm so happy that we have a casino here in Queens now," Hayes told 1010 WINS' Mona Rivera. "I normally go to Atlantic City or Mohegan Sun but since it's in the backyard I'll come here now."

"Queens has been waiting for this a long time," Bed-Stuy resident Sandra Quarles said. "I don't know what took so long but I'm just happy they're here today."

Albany lawmakers approved an Aqueduct casino 10 years ago but the first operator chosen went bankrupt. The next was rejected after an influence peddling scandal.

The "racino" features 2,280 video slot machines and 205 electronic table games -- including roulette, craps and baccarat. Thousands more will be added over time.

Building the facility created 1,300 jobs. More than 40,000 people applied for the 1,500 jobs the new casino will eventually fill.

Lawmakers along with community leaders are hoping the boost to the local economy will continue.

Aiello reports you can play slots for as little as a penny but New York State thinks it very quickly is going to add up to big bucks. Officials believe New York's take of Aqueduct revenue could eventually reach $1 million a day.

The flashy facility also includes 18 food and beverage courts, including two signature restaurants -- a gourmet Chinese spot and a steakhouse slated to open in mid-December, four VIP lounges, a bar and theater.

Aqueduct Racino
Lady Gaga impersonator at Aqueduct "racino" grand opening (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

"Finally after 10 years of hard work it's happening," spokesman Stefan Friedman said. "The Genting Group, which is the owners, got it down in exactly one year -- from groundbreaking on Oct. 28, 2010 to grand opening."

Aqueduct is the first racino in New York City, with the next closest facility at Yonkers Raceway.

WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reports


Casino officials are expecting to attract a large international clientele since Kennedy Airport is just a short drive away.

New Aqueduct Racino
People waiting in line to get in to the Aqueduct Racino. (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

The racetrack casinos want a change in state law to allow live dealers and full Vegas-style table games.

A recent poll shows that idea wins support from 55 percent of New Yorkers.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow says opponents are afraid "people will gamble away their entire paycheck trying to win."

But Pretlow says New York loses $5 billion a year in gaming revenue to other states.

How do you feel about the racino? Let us know below...

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