CUMBERLAND — Nearly 300 people were waiting outside and in the lobby Wednesday when Rocky Gap Casino Resort officials emerged at about 4 p.m. to announce they had received a call from the Maryland gaming commission that they were approved to open.
Those waiting were immediately let inside the casino where the crowd continued to grow through out the evening.
Officials estimated about 1,000 people visited Maryland’s newest casino on its first day.
Casino officials had been waiting for the final approval of a license after a test audit of the casino’s procedures and functions on Monday.
The crowd began to build early Wednesday as expectations of the opening of its doors grew.
Receiving the call from the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency was Scott Just, the resort’s general manager, from Lakes Entertainment Inc., the operators of the casino.
“Our team is experienced in gaming and hospitality and is looking forward to providing a great gambling experience and exceptional guest services,” said Just.
A visit to the resort and casino Thursday afternoon found about 200 people playing at the 558 slots and 10 table games. Some players who spoke to the Times-News asked to remain anonymous, while others provided only their first names.
Rip Coulehan and his wife Shawn of Cumberland were among those who came out Thursday.
“It’s impressive. I just hope it brings people out and creates more positive attitudes in the area,” said Rip Coulehan. “It’s like a mini Las Vegas without the vulgarity.”
Another Cumberland resident, Denise, was asked for her impression when she walked through the door.
“I just said, ‘Wow!’ It’s very nice. I think it will do well. We need some excitement in the area,” she said.
Several of those at the casino were from towns throughout the tri-state region.
Husband and wife Tim and Chris Miller of Hagerstown spoke after Tim received $15 on a free spin and Chris receivied $7 as part of a current promotion for anyone who signs up for the resort’s Rewards Club. Upon signing up for the club, which is free, a member may win up to $500 as part of the casino’s Join, Spin and Win promotion.
“I think it’s nice. They have a lot of different machines and the people are very attentive,” said Chris Miller.
“I like that they have free coffee and soft drinks. Other places we’ve gone charge for that,” said Tim Miller.
Chris Miller said the couple’s goal was to “leave with a little more than we came with.”
Allegany County will receive 5.5 percent of casino profits, which officials laud as good news for the local economy. Increased income for the county is expected to help fund increased road improvements, health programs, education and more.
Rocky Gap Casino Resort, which is also constructing a new addition in the form of an events center, is expected to employ around 350 people.
Three women from the Bedford, Pa., area were enjoying playing the Pink Diamond video terminals.
“It’s fun and it’s close for us,” said one woman.
“They’ve done a nice job,” said another.
Another woman from Needmore, Pa., also had words of praise. “I think it’s nice and it’s a good thing for the area,” she said.
Lakes Entertainment officials stressed that gambling at the casino should be done in a responsible fashion.
In addition to the casino, the resort has four restaurants, a spa, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus golf course with walking trails, fishing and other activities.
Greg Larry can be contacted at email@example.com.