As the first of two "casino resorts" to open in Pennsylvania, Valley Forge is required by law to have an "access plan." Gambling will be allowed to patrons of the Valley Forge Convention Center who spend at least $10 at any of its restaurants, bars, and retail shops, or stay at one of the center's two hotels, or use the spa.
Anyone attending a meeting, convention, or other event at the Convention Center also can enter the casino, as can those with seasonal or annual memberships, ranging from $20 to $69.
"I like to play poker, so I plan to test it out," said John Sollenberger, 59, of Downingtown, who was among those who opted to spend the minimum to enter the casino. After paying $10.60 for a mushroom burger at the food court, he was handed a plastic casino access card - which resembled a credit card and good for one day - that he signed on the back.
"If I like it, I'll come back next time and get a membership card," he said.
Sollenberger then used his access card to get through one of the electronic gateways to the casino floor and made a beeline for the table games. All the dealers were sporting their new uniforms: a bright red long-sleeve shirt, black vest and black pants.
Some expect the addition of the Valley Forge casino to intensify an already competitive regional gambling landscape. The newest casino joins SugarHouse on Penn's Landing, Harrah's in Chester, and Parx in Bensalem as the fourth gambling venue within a 29-mile radius.
In addition, the $2.4 billion Revel Casino opens on the Atlantic City Boardwalk on Monday to begin an eight-week "soft opening" preview.
Management predicts the Valley Forge casino will hold its own. Before the doors opened officially at midnight, close to 500 waited in line Friday night to get in. Within the first hour, the casino had double that number inside, said its president and chief executive officer Sal Scheri.
"We're thrilled," he said Saturday, as he walked the gaming floor to welcome customers. "It [the access plan] has not been an issue at all. People are learning it quickly and getting acclimated to it."
The new casino features seven new restaurants, including four that are sit-down venues - Pacific Prime, Viviano, Valley Taven, and Nosh Deli; three micro-restaurants (Asianoodle, Italian Market, and American Grill), and an entertainment venue (7 The Nightclub). The circular Center Bar, lined with LED flatscreen monitors, sits in the heart of the gaming floor.
"I think it's well thought out," said Lois Cosentino, 68, of Havertown, who sat next to her husband, Michael, 70, playing penny slots just before noon. The couple had a annual membership to the Convention Center that was given to them as a gift from their daughter.
"It's smaller than I thought and more intimate than most casinos," she said. "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."
Contact Suzette Parmley at 856-779-3844 or email@example.com.