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High-tech gambling on the table for Plainville casino opening

The Plainridge Park Casino will feature electronic table games such as this one when it opens in June.
The Plainridge Park Casino will feature electronic table games such as this one when it opens in June.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

PLAINVILLE — The voices in Plainridge Park Casino beckon bettors to the blackjack tables, even as work crews busily apply finishing touches to the decor and test some of the most technologically advanced equipment available in the gambling industry.

"Hi, high-roller, come play with me?" asks one blackjack dealer, repeatedly. Each time she flashes a smile.

"Anyone like to play blackjack?" asks another women's voice.

However enticing the dealers sound, they are not live.

The voices emanate from video simulations of blackjack dealers appearing on the large screens of huge, high-definition TVs scattered throughout the cavernous hall of the casino, which is scheduled to open next month.

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They stand over simulated blackjack tables complete with simulated decks of cards and simulated piles of cash. Arrayed around the tables and the simulated dealers — all of whom are female — are player stations, where real-life gamblers can test their skills at beating the house, at up to $100 a hand.

"You place your bet and she begins dealing the cards," Mike Thoma, a casino vice president, said while escorting a reporter on a preview tour last week.

The player stations come partially sheathed in black leather. They include comfortable foot rests for standing patrons, places to set down a drink,  and of course a slot into which players will soon feed bills of every denomination.

"These are the latest and greatest," Thomas said of the casino's 28 electronic table games, which are on the cutting edge of the highly competitive gambling industry. Altogether, Plainridge Park can accommodate 278 blackjack players at one time.

Players who have electronically placed bets receive two electronic cards from the smiling dealer; then the dealer — still smiling — goes around the table asking players if they want to add one or more cards to their hands. Players whose cards add up to a number closer to 21 than the dealer's added cards (without going over) win.

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Winners walk away with a printed ticket they can redeem for cash.

When it opens on June 24, Plainridge Park Casino will mark the beginning of the state's casino era. In 2017, MGM Resorts expects to open its $800 million resort casino in Springfield, and a year later, Wynn Resorts is slated to open a $1.7 billion casino in Everett. A third resort casino is under consideration by the state Gaming Commission for Brockton, New Bedford, or Somerset.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

During the tour on Friday, Thoma and other Penn National executives showed off their $250 million facility, which is located on a 90-acre site about 35 miles southwest of Boston and 18 miles north of Providence. The casino is built on the site of the Plainridge Racecourse, which will continue offering harness horse racing and wagering.

The facility's gross gambling revenues are expected to be $250 million a year, of which the state will take 40 percent, a $100 million windfall. Another 9 percent is required to be put in a special fund to support the horse racing industry.

Besides the electronic table games, the Plainridge casino is fitted out with 1,222 flashing, whirling, honking slot machines, which give players the option of yanking an old-fashioned lever and simply hitting the "repeat bet" button.

Beyond the gaming floor are the outlines of what will be a stage for live entertainment, a lounge, a food court, and restaurants. Among the restaurants is Flutie's Sports Pub, developed by the former Boston College and New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie.

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"We're envisioning a lively, noisy, exciting atmosphere," said Lance George, the general manager, who is responsible for meeting not only construction deadlines inside and outside the facility, but also regulatory ones as Plainridge becomes the first casino to come under the jurisdiction of the state gambling commission.

"Only 47 days to opening," he said, amid teams of construction workers and others criss-crossing the gaming floor. "But who's counting?"


Sean P. Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @spmurphyboston.