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Welcome to Saturday night at Resorts World Casino New York City, the new monument to gambling at Aqueduct. Forty years after Secretariat debuted at the racetrack, the first casino in the five boroughs is running fast.
Powers, along with her two sons and daughters-in-law, was among thousands of visitors at Resorts World on a recent Saturday night. The casino opened in October and has drawn up to 50,000 a day for reasons that include the video lottery terminals, electronic table games, restaurants and live entertainment.
"It has been a good night out," said Joan Powers' son Robert, of Malverne. Comparing Resorts World with other nearby gaming destinations, he added: "This is more comfortable. It has a more open feel."
Resorts World, owned by Genting Malaysia Berhad, a subsidiary of The Genting Group, has quickly become an attraction, competing with the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, as well as Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and Atlantic City.
"It's only 35 minutes away to lose my money," said Diane Maloney of Massapequa Park. "It's convenient ... I saw the ads on the Long Island Rail Road. I've been waiting for it to open." She was in line at Queens Burger, an eatery in the Resorts World food court.
It took about a year to build the Resorts World complex, with an initial $830 million investment. Currently, construction continues on a covered bridge to connect the casino to the Aqueduct/Conduit Avenue subway station.
The casino was approved by the state in 2001 to generate tax revenue. In 2010, Genting was chosen by the state to develop and operate the video-lottery casino at Aqueduct. Seven casinos are expected to open in New York State. Locally, the Shinnecock Nation has sought to build a casino in either Nassau or Suffolk.
For now, however, Resorts World is the only game in town -- or at least the only one attached to Long Island.
"I like it a lot. I'm here for the second time," said Bea Lana of Garden City, about to buy dinner with her mother, who's visiting from South America, at the Good Friends Noodle House. "It's very pretty, new, no smoking, very clean."
If it doesn't have the Strip-size neon, glitz and high-decibel frenzy of Las Vegas, the Big A's new headliner certainly delivers a one-stop local alternative, starting with the main entrance lobby, above which floats a glittery glass sculpture with 193 bulbs meant to suggest the United Nations.
The first-floor Times Square Casino, full of flash and color, is the busiest and most crowded on the premises, with 2,280 video lottery terminals, or slot-machine-style games, and 205 electronic table games. On the second floor, the Fifth Avenue Casino, which opened in December, comes in with 2,240 lottery terminals and 270 electronic table games.
Gamblers also may take a more refined route to the invitation-only, polished wood Crockfords Casino, a tribute to the London original that opened in 1828. Crockfords is on the second level, with fewer machines and higher bets, up to $100 a play, with the chance to win $750,000. The buffet at Crockfords is free.
On the third level is a 70,000-square foot, multi-columned "event space" dubbed Central Park, where Chinese lunar new year festivities were held earlier this year. It doesn't take too much imagination to envision that Central Park could become a casino floor.
But while gambling is the jackpot here, not all visitors show up for the gaming. Business meetings can be seen under way at the Aqueduct Buffet; dating-and-dining at the sit-down restaurants; and imbibing and enjoying live entertainment at Bar 360 and Liberty Bar, a circular showcase that includes what's billed as the largest TV screen in Queens.
Sandra Lipkis of Howard Beach said: "I like the place. And the music is the attraction, too. Besides, it's so close to home."
Parents also bring younger children. Resorts World has passageways that allow children to move about without setting foot on the casino floor.
Meantime, Joan Powers printed her winning ticket from Wheel of Fortune. She was smiling. "Eight cents," she said.
What you need to know
The casino is open every day, from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Most restaurants close by 11 p.m.; 888-888-8801.
If you're westbound on the LIE or the Northern State/Grand Central Parkway, exit onto the Van Wyck Expressway southbound. Go to exit 1-W to North Conduit Avenue, and follow signs to Aqueduct.
Valet parking is $10. Garage parking is $5. Both must be paid before leaving the casino. There also is free outdoor parking in lots around the casino, but when they're crowded, you may have a long walk. Parking capacity at Resorts World is 6,400 vehicles.
You'll find more than 4,500 "video lottery terminals," the term for the equivalent of slot machines at the racinos, or casinos associated with racetracks. Additionally, there are 475 electronic table games, such as roulette, baccarat and craps, with robotic and virtual dealers or croupiers. You must be 18 or older to play.