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    Plainridge Park Casino is off to the races

    PLAINVILLE — The peacock-feathered showgirls detached their dresses from the long red carpet — “it has snaps!” one said — so it could be rolled up and put away.

    The Aerosmith cover band was long gone by then, livin’ on some other edge.

    And Doug Flutie? He’d shaken a few hands on the way to his car before the doors at Plainridge Park Casino even opened.


    The fanfare that accompanied Massachusetts’ entry into the era of legalized casino gambling faded fast as Wednesday crept into Thursday. But it’s what follows the glitz and glam of the grand opening that will determine whether this gambit pays off.

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    Here’s what happened in the 24 hours after the state let the gaming begin.

    Dave Bartkiewicz, left, and Allen Conroy were the first two people in line.
    John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
    Dave Bartkiewicz, left, and Allen Conroy were the first two people in line.

    12:15 p.m.

    Dave Bartkiewicz was determined to be the first gambler in Massachusetts.

    But when Bartkiewicz, of Shrewsbury, got to Plainridge a little before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, he found himself second in line.

    Alan Conroy, of Plainville, had beaten him by nearly half an hour.


    “I’m going to run right past him,” whispered Bartkiewicz, who had a pretty obvious footspeed advantage over the stout Conroy.

    When the doors swung open just before noon, Bartkiewicz bolted.

    The hare beat the tortoise, though it helped that the tortoise either didn’t know or didn’t care that he was in a race.

    “I’m not fussy,” said Conroy, who wasn’t expecting to be first in line to begin with. He just wanted a slot machine — “one that puts out,” he said.

    “He was wandering around. I just sat at the first machine,” Bartkiewicz said. “I lost $20. Who cares?”

    The casino was very crowded at 2:30 p.m.
    John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
    The casino was very crowded at 2:30 p.m.

    2:15 p.m.


    By about 2 p.m., the crowd at Plainridge was so thick that lines were forming behind many of the 1,250 slot machines. Jesse Rezendes was among a small group waiting patiently for a seat at one of three Ellen Degeneres-themed machines.

    “It’s kind of weird,” he said of the daytime talk show host’s gracing of a high-tech gambling device. Indeed, slot machines seem more up Kathie Lee and Hoda’s alley.

    But it turns out there are a lot of Degeneres gamblers around.

    One tiny senior citizen after another shouldered the burly Rezendes out of the way to take a spin with Ellen.

    He threw up his hands.

    “It’s beautiful, but it’s too crowded,” said Rezendes. “Hopefully it will die down.”

    Slot players basked in the machines’ blue glow.
    John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe
    Slot players basked in the machines’ blue glow.

    5:36 p.m.

    Plainridge Park Casino reached capacity — about 3,400 people — and lines formed all over again, hours after the casino opened its doors.

    The slots were all spoken for, but many of the seats at the flashy virtual table games that simulate black jack, poker, roulette, and craps were empty.

    At the $25 virtual blackjack tables, digital dealers — white-toothed young women of varied ethnicity and uniform cleavage — blinked and beckoned from high resolution screens at a sea of empty seats in front of their vacant eyes.

    Virtual roulette, but with a real ball spinning in a real wheel, seemed to be faring better.

    “I’d rather have a live person,” said Eric Rainey, a regular at Foxwoods who made the drive down from Melrose, echoing others who said the virtual games just didn’t do it for them.

    “Twin River tried it for a while,” he said. “It didn’t work.”

    Julie Hobson from North Attleboro did well on a slot machine.
    John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe
    Julie Hobson from North Attleboro did well on a slot machine.

    8:15 p.m.

    The luckiest machine on Plainridge’s first day may have been the Triple Cash slot in the high limit section by the sports bar.

    Betty Yung, from Fall River, won $9,000. Then $1,800. Then $1,200.

    “Some people are just lucky,” Yung said while she waited for casino staff to retrieve her ticket. “Sometimes I got a feeling.”

    She’d had her eye on the machine earlier, when, she said, the previous occupant hit an $18,000 jackpot and followed it up with $3,000 and $1,200 pots before her mother got bored and asked to leave.

    Yung said she planned to move her action from Twin River to Plainridge — but just because the drive is shorter not because she lost about $100,000 at the Rhode Island casino last year.

    “It’s a half-hour from our house,” she said and shrugged.

    9:00 p.m.

    Perhaps the most confounding of the many baffling slot machines at Plainridge is a game named for television’s “The Walking Dead.”

    A giant touchscreen swirls and spits up all kinds of horrific images from the show: zombies and shotguns and men with severe features; various household items soaked in blood.

    A young woman from Chelmsford sat down to play as soon as a seat opened up and started pecking at buttons.

    “Whatever it lands on, that’s what I go by,” she explained.

    OK then.

    A few bloody screwdrivers flashed on screen and she won or lost a few cents. Sometimes the machine just displays the word GUTS.

    She gave a thumbs up, and won some free games from a spinning giant wheel that materialized seemingly at random. Now the machine was playing itself: Bloody teddy bears. Characters who died three seasons ago. Inexplicably, a rental truck.

    “Every machine is like a different language,” she said. She cashed out with about $40 on her ticket and walked away.

    Lucas Yosimura, 21, (left) of Franklin, quickly finishes his drink as last call is announced.
    Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
    Lucas Yosimura, 21, (left) of Franklin, quickly finishes his drink as last call is announced.

    1:22 a.m.

    Five-dollar blackjack. That’s all Alex Berry wants.

    “Not $15 or $25,” the 21-year-old said. “Five-dollar blackjack. Broke people need cheaper gambling.”

    That, and a 2 a.m. last call at the bar.

    Shortly before 1 a.m., when the bars at Plainridge stop serving, Berry’s group of friends tried to finagle another beer out of a reluctant bartender in the Revolution Lounge.

    A bartender locked the beer taps with a key.

    Berry’s friend Chase Sylvia, 24, of Dartmouth wasn’t complaining about the table minimums: he was up $160. And Isaac Benner, 22, of Rochester, boasted that he had once won $2,000.

    “I’m a big gambler,” Benner said. “It’s the rush of it. Once you see someone get a bonus or a jackpot and just keep getting more and more money.”

    He said there aren’t nearly enough slots for his taste in Plainridge Park. Sylvia said the casino is “a little small, but tastefully done.”

    “I like drinking,” Berry said.

    Only a few patrons remained at 4 a.m.
    Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
    Only a few patrons remained at 4 a.m.

    4:24 a.m.

    The gambler’s mantra seems simple enough.

    “Scared money don’t make no money,” said Annette Cruz, 37, laughing.

    The slot attendant circled players row by row and made sure each person had what they needed.

    She paid out winners and empathized with the losers.

    Smiling wide, she made small talk with those sitting alone at slot machines.

    “No one likes to lose,” Cruz said.

    The mother of two from Rhode Island said she has always worked overnight — mostly in hospitals — and was excited to begin her new job in the casino.

    “I’ve been to Vegas, like, five times,” Cruz said. “I like watching people when they are getting excited about winning.”

    She saw the Plainridge Park sign from the highway and decided to apply.

    This evening, she’d already encountered a patron who had won more than $1,000. But she said she knew that others had won more than $5,000.

    “It’s fun,” she said. “As long as you’re sensible.”

    Dean Roberts and Joe Brewer played the roulette table at 7:30 a.m.
    David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
    Dean Roberts and Joe Brewer played the roulette table at 7:30 a.m.

    9:30 a.m.

    On Wednesday evening they had decided, on a whim, to leave Whitman and drive over to Plainridge to try out the new slot casino.

    Figured they’d stay an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Nearly 11 hours later, Joe Brewer and Dean Roberts walked out of the Plainridge Park Casino and into the blinding early morning sunlight.

    “I can’t believe we did that without drinking,” Roberts, 55, said. The bar had closed at 1 a.m., nearly eight hours ago. “That’s something to be said.”

    The state’s first casino rolled into its first morning as the first of the all-nighters rolled out. The line to cash out snaked back on itself as morning announced itself, not through sunshine — casinos have no windows — but with hunger pains and the realization that it might be time to take a break.

    Brewer had one of those gambling nights that starts out with a small plan, and quickly rewrites itself. He’d started with $20.

    He was over $1,000 at one point, locked into the idea that he had a hot machine and a hot streak. By the time he called it a day, just before 9 a.m., he had yo-yo’d up and down enough times that he was feeling like he’d done well for himself cashing out at $180.

    Roberts, on the other hand, had lost $100, “but I played all night, so that’s like being up,” he laughed.

    Doug Flutie’s 1984 Heisman trophy.
    David L Ryan/Globe Staff
    Doug Flutie’s 1984 Heisman trophy.

    11:30 a.m.

    As 9 a.m. came to Plainridge Park, the first full day of Massachusetts casino gambling looked like it was off to a promising start.

    The 24-hour slot parlor, which had been mostly dead as it limped into its first morning, came alive with the workday, as hundreds of players, mostly older folks, stuffed the parking lot and brought the casino floor to life.

    By 11, more than half the slot machines had a person parked in front of them.

    The casino, which is roughly the size of a Walmart, does not have the resort feel of Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun in nearby Connecticut, but it feels more open and clean, with no smoking allowed, no bleary-eyed all-night drunks, no boutiques selling garishly overpriced merchandise to people on a hot streak. Instead, there is a small food court — coffee, pizza, burgers — and two restaurants, including Doug Flutie’s Sports Pub, which was stuffed with memorabilia from one of New England’s favorite sons.

    Flutie’s Heisman trophy, that symbol of one of the great moments in local sports history, now looks out on a game called “Jackpot Stampede.”

    Around 1 p.m. cocktail waitress Soraya Prescott serves patrons.
    David L Ryan/Globe Staff
    Around 1 p.m. cocktail waitress Soraya Prescott serves patrons.

    12:56 p.m.

    One of the key arguments for casino gambling in Massachusetts was that it would keep money in the state and out of the hands of the hugely popular Connecticut casinos. And a survey of license plates in the parking lot at Plainridge Park on Thursday showed that the logic appears to be working.

    Massachusetts plates were everywhere, which was expected, but there were also a ton of plates from Rhode Island, which is not too far from here and was seen as a state that could be fought over for casino revenues.

    “We had our choice [to go to Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun],” said David Grudzien, who lives on the Connecticut border in Rhode Island. “But we decided to come here because it was new and we wanted to see what it was like.”

    Nestor Ramos can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos. Cristela Guerra can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra. Billy Baker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.