Thousands of people flocked to Jake’s 58 Hotel & Casino in Islandia Monday upon the debut of the first such facility to open on Long Island following years-long debates over its location.
The mini-casino’s soft opening drew crowds despite only having 265 of the 1,000 games that are slated to be installed by this summer. The gambling parlor’s operators insist that they won’t negatively impact the community, although local civic associations still have a pending lawsuit intent on blocking the facility.
“We’ll be a good neighbor,” Chuck Kilroy, the president and general manager of the hotel and casino, told the Press. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how the property operates and how we’ll become a member of the community.”
The Suffolk Off-track Betting Corp. contracted Buffalo-based Delaware North, a hospitality and gaming company, to operate the casino, which is located on the Long Island Expressway westbound service road at the 227-room hotel formerly known as the Islandia Marriott.
The Suffolk OTB, which hopes the revenue from the mini-casino will help the agency emerge from bankruptcy, previously planned to build it in Medford, but abandoned that idea due to community opposition. Nassau Downs OTB had faced similar opposition to planned mini-casinos in Westbury and Elmont before it opted for a revenue-sharing agreement in exchange for transferring its rights to 1,000 slot machines to Resorts World Casino in Queens.
When the Village of Islandia passed a resolution approving the casino last year, officials insisted that it would not include the typical big-name casino events.
“There will be no Vegas-style shows at the hotel,” Islandia Mayor Allan Dorman said in a statement, emphasizing that the mini-casino will have “minimal impact” on the community. “Tony Orlando is not coming to Islandia.”
Jake’s 58—a name inspired by the LIE exit number and Jeremy Jacob, the owner of Delaware North—hired 336 staffers, including dozens of security guards, to start, with more hires to come once the construction is complete. The figure does not include construction jobs.
Among games such as Wheel of Fortune, Friends and Titanic, are penny slot machines and a high-limit room with bets up to $25. The casino is open until 4 a.m. and reopens at 8 a.m. daily.
Once it’s completed, there will be electronic table games, as well as a bar and “grab-and-go” restaurant on the casino floor, Kilroy said. The hotel also has dining at Bistro 58 on the ground floor.
Technically, the machines are Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), not slot machines, but the difference lies in its connectivity. User operation of a VLT is the same as a slot machine.
“I’ve been in this business almost 40 years, I can’t tell the difference,” Kilroy said. “They look the same, they act the same.”
Regardless, as one group of gamblers walked into the lobby and laid eyes on the casino for the first time, several yelled “Finally!”