But the casino’s main innovation is that it is reachable by subway from the real Times Square.
It is New York City’s first casino — or racino, because it is connected to the Aqueduct racetrack in South Ozone Park, Queens — featuring 5,000 video gambling terminals and electronic table games, including craps and a popular Asian dice game known as sic bo; restaurants like Chinese dim sum and the Stage Deli; and 6,500 parking spots.
The casino, which was approved by the Legislature in 2001 only to be delayed by false starts and influence peddling, has already stirred deep divisions. Some critics say it comes perilously close to breaching constitutional limits on gambling, while others predict it will prompt a deluge of social ills, like divorce, gambling addiction or suicide.
But supporters, including the owners of the casino and legislators in Albany, say that casino gambling has been available in the metropolitan area for years, and that this casino will help keep jobs and some of that revenue in New York.
“This is an opportunity for New Yorkers to have a Vegas-like experience without having to leave the city,” said Michael Speller, the president of Resorts World Casino New York City, who started off as a blackjack dealer in his native London when he was 18.
Resorts World, owned by Genting New York, a subsidiary of the largest gambling company in England and Southeast Asia, says the casino will generate up to $1.5 million a day for the state. Also in the works are a climate-controlled bridge to the nearby Aqueduct North Conduit Avenue A train subway station and a shuttle to Kennedy International Airport.
The doors will open at 1 p.m. on Friday, and at 8 a.m. beginning Saturday. Closing time is 4 a.m. seven days a week.
Only the ground-floor portion of the complex, called the Times Square Casino, will be open on Friday. The more elegant Fifth Avenue Casino, which will open on the second floor in December, will feature the upmarket RW Prime Steakhouse, fine Chinese cuisine and an expansive outdoor terrace where diners can overlook the track where Secretariat was paraded shortly before his retirement and where Pope John Paul II said Mass in front of 75,000 people.
Another portion of the second floor is set aside for the Crockfords Casino, named after the upscale London casino also owned by Genting, designed for high-rollers and would-be Donald Trumps who will have access through a private entrance, after being delivered to Aqueduct in Champagne-stocked limousines.
The third floor, called Central Park, will have 130,000 square feet, making it the largest event space in Queens and a place for newlyweds craving a casino reception.
In recent weeks, 1,400 construction workers have been working 20 hours a day in two shifts to ensure that the casino will be ready by Friday. One week ago, the front sign said, “RESORTS WORLD ASINO NEW Y K CITY,” but the missing letters were in place by Monday.
New York authorized gambling at Aqueduct and eight other racetracks in 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center shook the state’s economy. But while the other tracks were able to install video slot machines, which now generate more than $600 million a year in revenue sharing for the state, deals for Aqueduct, considered the most profitable franchise, fell through. Last year, the state inspector general found that State Senate leaders had manipulated the process to favor a politically connected group from Queens.
After another round of bids, Genting won by offering the state a $380 million upfront fee, which it has paid.