VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's 11th casino is open for business near the suburban Philadelphia area where George Washington's soldiers endured the bleak winter of 1777-78.
The $150 million Valley Forge Casino Resort opened early Saturday at a conference center just outside Valley Forge National Historical Park. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board gave the casino the final signoff after two test nights, board spokesman Doug Harbach said Friday.
Valley Forge is the first of the smaller "resort" casinos laid out in the 2004 law that legalized gambling in Pennsylvania, featuring 600 slot machines and 50 table games. The casino itself will be more selective, with gambling restricted to people attending a convention, meeting or private function there; people who spend a minimum of $10 in one of the resort's dining, nightlife or retail outlets; or anyone who purchases a resort membership.
"The testing went smoothly," Valley Forge Casino Resort President and CEO Saverio "Sal" R. Scheri said in a statement before the casino opened. "We cannot wait to open our doors to the public."
The casino, which is part of a convention center not far from where Washington once camped with his Continental Army soldiers, also features amenities such as bars, restaurants, a nightclub and performance and banquet space. Officials say it will bring about 645 full-time jobs.
"I like to play poker, so I plan to test it out," John Sollenberger, 59, of Downingtown, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was among those who opted to spend the minimum to enter the casino, buying a mushroom burger for $10.60 at the food court and receiving a credit card-like access card good for one day.
He then passed through one of the electronic gateways to the casino floor, vowing to return and get a membership card if he enjoyed the experience.
"I think it's well thought out," Lois Cosentino, 68, of Havertown, told the newspaper as she sat next to her husband, Michael, 70, playing penny slots. "It's smaller than I thought and more intimate than most casinos. But it's great locally. I would assume it will get people going to the mall and be a big boost to the two hotels."
The state's second "resort" license has been awarded to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort outside Pittsburgh, but one of the losing bidders for that license appealed to the state Supreme Court, and that license remains in limbo.