A dream came true Nov. 21 for Remington Park officials and Oklahoma horsemen. Shortly before 1 p.m., the track opened the doors of its new $35-million slot-machine casino.
As a result of the passage of State Question 712 last fall, Remington altered the look of its 17-year-old facility, and the public quickly responded when the gaming hall opened.
"It was fantastic, especially for a soft opening," Remington Park general manager Scott Wells said. "We had over 700 customers in the first 40 minutes. It far exceeded our expectations."
Attendance for the day was 4,342.
Late in the afternoon, Wells and his staff looked forward to the evening's live racing card, which began at 6:30 p.m. "It has remained steady," Wells said. "There were lines at all the machines. The place was packed."
Magna Entertainment Corp., which owns Remington, put construction crews into action four months ago.
"It has been only 120 days since we signed (an agreement) with the Zoo (which owns the land on which Remington sits)," Wells said. "The renovation has taken place in 120 days. They worked round the clock the last 60 days, in three shifts."
The Oklahoma City Zoo will receive a percentage of casino profits, as will the state of Oklahoma, horsemen's purses, and the general fund at Remington.
Remington Park Casino includes 650 gaming machines; a valet entrance; Wild Rush Bar with overhead sound stage; Remy's restaurant; 360-degree LCD monitors, or Dynascans; and The Lookout, a race book overlooking the finish line. The track's grandstand level, which had not been used for years, was transformed into the gaming center.
Wells said he was impressed the casino opened on time.
"The (Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission's) machine testers were here until 3:30 a.m. (Nov. 21), took a break, and were back at 8 a.m.," Wells said. "We could not ask a commission to go beyond the call of duty any more than that."
The first customer in the casino was Joe Lucas, president of the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma. He put down $10 into a Big Bertha machine and began the action.
"I played for a few minutes, got up to $41 and cashed out a winner," Lucas said. "The money goes to the Oklahoma horse racing industry and to the state's education system, so everyone benefits."
Linda Mason of Oklahoma City was the first jackpot winner. The retired teacher won $2,250 on a Double Diamond machine in the High Limit room.
"I hit that jackpot on my second spin," she said. "I'm going to have a great Christmas with this money."
Remington Park Casino's grand opening is scheduled for Nov. 28, which is the last evening of the track's live Thoroughbred season.