For years, Howard Beach resident Scott Molina has lived in the glow of flashing neon lights.
A native of Atlantic City, the casinos that dot the ocean shoreline were practically Molina’s backyard when he was growing up. When he graduated from high school around 1980, there were two paths — the world of slots or college.
Molina chose slots, and three decades later, finds himself in a new place, but basking in that familiar glow of thousands of slot machines, their iridescent screens waiting for the onslaught of crowds expected to surge into the Resorts World Casino New York City when the facility at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park opens on Friday.
“It’s going to be a very exciting place to be,” said Molina, director of slot operations at the city’s first casino, which will open to the public at 1 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28. “We have a great center bar, live entertainment and we just opened about 2,500 slot machines, 500 of which will be electronic table games.”
Molina is one of about 1,350 employees at the casino that is expected to draw about eight million visitors to the area annually. As opening day quickly approaches, the employees said they’ve been working long hours to prepare — but they said it’s worth it.
“I’ve watched it come from the ground up, so it’s my baby right now,” said Lawrence Sanz, a Woodside resident and executive sous chef at the casino.
After Sanz was hired in May, he hopped on a plan to Las Vegas, where he studied food court layout, and to Orlando to train under Wolfgang Puck.
Since then, Sanz and the rest of the casino’s cuisine afficionados, including Executive Chef Bruno Egea, of Rockaway Park, have created their own hamburger line that they’ll be offering at the restaurant Queens Burger, as well as a host of menus that include everything from Mahi Mahi soft tacos to boneless pork ribs with wonton noodle soup.
“It’s exciting to be part of something new,” Sanz said. “Instead of going to the same old, same old, you have somewhere exciting to go.”
Las Vegas native Chad Mostats, the vice president of information technology, noted the casino is wired to essentially deliver pertinent information to customers as soon as they walk in the door.
Many customers will fill out information for the casino, letting them know their likes and dislikes —so, for example, should a resident with a penchant for the New York Giants enter the facility, the system will immediately send information to his or her phone about things like game information and even allow that person to purchase tickets.
“We want to customize the experience for you,” said Mostats, who has been to 13 casino openings from a small town in Louisiana to Las Vegas.
“These openings are like nothing you’ve ever seen,” said Mostats, who now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The crowd is immense. Usually up to six, seven hours before we open people will tend to line up. It’s really cool.”