BERLIN – Ocean City resident Beckie Jolliff was on line for the Casino at Ocean Downs’ grand opening at 9 a.m., a full four hours before the scheduled opening. She’d bonded with Salisbury resident Jo Siminski, who rolled in at 9:30 but despite the cold the locals were happy to wait. It was an opening they’d been waiting for four years.
Both women were among those locals who make occasional-to-regular trips to the Delaware casinos in order to play the slots. “It’s 20 minutes at most for me,” said Siminski. “We’re going to get a [Players Club] card and we’re going to win.”
Siminski is retired but Jolliff isn’t. She was taking a bit of teasing about calling in sick to be at the grand opening but said she happened to have the day off. “It just happened to work out that way,” she said.
The pair was at the head of a crowd that stretched the length of the new building from either side of the main entrance. Many had been in the relative cold for some time and casino workers occasionally brought out coffee to the waiting throngs.
Inside those invited to the ribbon cutting were enjoying the appetizers and talking about the good they expected, economically, from the casino. Although the official first customers were to wait until the speeches were over, several people took their turns at the slot machines, or at least attempted to.
Ocean Pines resident Dorothy Thomas was among the first to have technical difficulties with the machines but one of the slot attendants came quickly to her aid, popped open her machine and returned her rejected $10 bill.
The attendant was one of the 236 new employees heralded as the most salient evidence of the Casino at Ocean Downs’ relevance to the community. Several of the employees were under employed or unemployed before the casino opened and were happy to be part of the areas newest attraction.
George Bellman was one of them. Bellman worked on the games at Marty’s Playland after his retirement from Giant Foods but left and was happy to be part of the new casino service team.
“The training and orientation here was a thorough as I’ve ever attended,” he said.
Gov. Martin O’Malley focused his brief pre-ribbon cutting remarks on job creation of just this kind, thanking the county commissioners for helping the slots facility to move forward in Worcester County with “so little drama.”
The Casino at Ocean Downs is only the second to open in the state since the legislation passed two years ago.
“We can moan and complain and be angry all we want or we can do something and create jobs,” O’Malley said. “We are all in this fight together.”
All of the speakers thanked and congratulated owner William Rickman for his fortitude throughout the approval and building process.
“He should be getting an award,” said Sen. Mike Miller. “For all the challenges he’s overcome.”
The hundreds of people pouring through the doors of his $45 million casino will likely be thanks enough, especially given the amount of enthusiasm they’re already exhibiting.