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Aaron Todd

Aaron  Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

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Massachusetts 'slots parlor' filled to capacity on opening day

24 Jun 2015

By Aaron Todd
PLAINVILLE, Mass. — Several hundred patrons stood in line, waiting to be among the first to enter Plainridge Park Casino half an hour before the official opening of the first gaming establishment in Massachusetts on Wednesday afternoon. When the doors finally opened at 11:55 a.m., five minutes ahead of schedule, the first visitors received to a hero’s welcome, with employees cheering and clapping as they entered the building.

One hour later, cars lined Route 1 as more people tried to get into the facility, even though nearly all of the more than 1,200 slot machines were occupied.

Penn National Gaming, which operates the facility, won the state's sole "slots parlor" license in February 2014, though officials at Penn National aren't too fond of that designation.

"We refer to this as Plainridge Park Casino," said Jay Snowden, the chief operating officer of Penn National. "We're confident and determined that when the doors open today at 12:00 and the crowd rushes in, it's the last time you’ll ever hear the term 'slot parlor.'"

In addition to slot machines, the facility features electronic table games like blackjack, roulette and craps; several restaurants; and Revolution 1776 Lounge, which has a bar with video poker machines and a stage for music acts. Slot machines make up roughly two-thirds of the real estate inside the building.

Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. (photo by Aaron Todd)

"This doesn't feel like a slots parlor," said Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby. "This feels like a casino, a multidimensional casino. I think from my standpoint (Penn National has) exceeded expectations. The facility is a better, more gracious, more welcoming, more fun facility than I was anticipating."

Dining options include Doug Flutie's Sports Pub, Slack's Oyster House & Grill, and a food court featuring b. good, an upscale fast-food burger joint that offers $7 hamburgers; Slice, a pizzeria offering $2.75 slices of cheese; and The Bean, a coffee shop open 24 hours that offers a $2 cup of coffee and $6-$8 sandwiches.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed a casino bill in 2011, allowing the state to license one slot parlor and three resort casinos. The law is intended to draw people from outside the state, but also to retain gamblers from Massachusetts who travel to Mohegan Sun or Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut and Twin River Casino or Newport Grand in Rhode Island.

The sports pub features 30 LCD TV screens.

The sports pub features 30 LCD TV screens. (photo by Aaron Todd)

One notable difference between Plainridge Park Casino and the Connecticut and Rhode Island casinos is the lack of smoking on the gaming floor. Massachusetts' casino law forbids smoking in the casino, so Plainridge Park Casino offers patrons a smoking patio just outside.

Meanwhile, billboards on I-95 South heading towards Plainville proclaimed that Twin River offers gamblers a choice, with both smoking and nonsmoking casino floors.

"The old rule is that smoking facilities do better in terms of revenue, but 70 percent of visitors don’t smoke," said Commissioner Enrique Zuniga. "I think this is really going to be a test case, with non-smoking facilities for every (facility in the state)."

The first proposal Penn National made for a slot parlor was in Tewksbury, but the proposal failed a local referendum in August 2013, prompting the company to shift its focus to Plainville. After spending $100 million towards the construction of the facility, Penn National had to wait to see if a referendum that would repeal the legislation would pass in November 2014. When the repeal effort failed, the company spent another $150 million to finish construction.

The facility will employ 600 people, 85 percent of whom are Massachusetts residents.
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