Minutes after Hollywood Casino Morgantown opened to the public at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Rod Merrill and his wife, Allison, were parked and ready to tour.
Merrill, from nearby Elverson, says he’s not really a player but wanted to see the Wyomissing Penn National Gaming’s new casino in the canton of Caernarvon.
Like many others in the area, Merrill has seen the 81,000 square foot building rise over the past two years from vacant land near the intersection of Route 10, Interstate 176 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
âIt doesn’t bother me at all,â he said. “I play once a year so it will be closer now.”
Merrill says he has a system to control his game.
âWhen I play, I take a limited amount of money,â he explained. âIf it lasts five minutes, it’s an expensive day. If it lasts an hour, it’s an inexpensive day.
Following a ceremony featuring business leaders, lawmakers, community members and other special guests, a ribbon was cut and the doors opened for several dozen people lined up at the ‘one of the two public entrances. A string group performed “Fly Eagles Fly” and other upbeat songs as the first patrons entered the building.
Patricia Gordon and her little group from West Chester were eager to see what was inside. Before the pandemic, she was visiting Valley Forge Casino or places in Atlantic City, NJ or Maryland.
âI think it’s great,â she said. “It’s not too far from my house, and it’s pretty neat.”
The $ 111 million casino has 750 slots and 28 table games, plus room for 10 more table games, which is the allowed limit for a Category 4 license. There will also be two games. hybrids where players will be able to bet with a live stream of table games.
The casino will be open 24 hours a day on Fridays and Saturdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m. the other days.
In fact, Tony Luke Jr. himself was there to cut a ceremonial cheesesteak to commemorate the opening. Philadelphia Eagles legend Vince Papale, the subject of Mark Wahlberg’s film “Invincible”, joined him.
A giant bar right in the middle of the game room, named Bar 76, will offer several local craft beers. The seating for the bar and Tony Luke can accommodate approximately 100 diners. Red Lotus is on the other side of the floor, next to six Asian-themed table games.
Those who wish to smoke and gamble have a room next to the casino which has 160 slot machines and special climate controls.
Customers who use their cell phones for payments can use Penn National’s 3C technology, which allows customers to have a cardless, cashless and contactless experience that is already in use at other Hollywood casinos in Pennsylvania. .
The grand opening ceremony was kicked off with a champagne toast from Daniel Ihm, vice president and general manager of the Hollywood Casino at the Penn National Race Course in Dauphin County. He mentioned that this is the second Category 4 casino that Penn National has opened this year. The Hollywood Casino York went live in August.
âFour and a half months ago the Hollywood Casino York opened and it was amazing,â he said with a raised flute, âand we are here today to open our last casino in Morgantown. . It seemed for a moment that we were using a Hollywood movie script: âMission Impossibleâ. Thanks to our staff, we were able to rewrite it.
Ihm said he was especially grateful for the efforts of the entire Penn National family, as the company’s 43 other properties all contributed to the project. After receiving approval to build on a 36-acre vacant lot in 2019, the project was delayed for several months by the coronavirus pandemic.
Todd George, executive vice president of operations for Penn National, said getting to the opening was an incredible journey.
âI want to thank the hard working team,â he said. âPeople from all over the company came and helped do it. “
Last weekend, the casino hosted two test days where guests could play while Penn National completed final equipment checks.
All proceeds from those days went to local charities, including the United Way of Berks County, the Honey Brook Pantry and the Jarett Yoder Foundation, which helps local community heroes in need, including active military personnel, veterans, firefighters, paramedics, first responders and police.
The test raised over $ 89,000, which was rounded up by Penn National into a check for $ 100,000 to the organizations.
Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt said the casino âwill drive an economic engine for many. It is a wonderful entertainment and dining experience.
State Senator Judy Schwank, a Democrat from Ruscombmanor Township, said the opening was a great gift for Berks and praised the Township of Caernarvon’s support for the project.
âPeople really stood up and understood what this means for the community,â she said. âThere have been a lot of projects (at Berks) over the years that haven’t happened. Guess what? Finally, something has happened and I can’t wait to see it.
State Representative Mark Rozzi, a Democrat from Muhlenberg Township, said Penn National was a great company.
âOf course, they invest millions for a return on their investments,â Rozzi said. “But they donate millions to charities and small businesses across the region.”