Ready. Set. Gamble.
Hialeah Park, the city’s iconic horse racing track, opened the doors to its new casino Wednesday after months of construction to build a home for 882 slot machines, 20 poker tables, three domino tables and a new Italian restaurant.
By 6 p.m., about 4,000 people had attended opening day, which was not widely advertised. A three-day re-dedication celebration is set to start at 9 p.m. on Aug. 30 with a fireworks display and performance by salsa artists Hansel y Raul.
Owner John Brunetti said he was glad to see such a turnout for a midweek opening. The casino will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
“It’s a very pleasant surprise that the response that we’ve received is far more than we’ve expected,” he said.
Paul Aiello, director of simulcasting and announcer at the park, said Wednesday felt surreal after four years of legal battles with competing tracks, planning and construction.
He noted that the casino may attract different visitors than the quarter horse races now held at the more than 75-year-old facility. The park closed in 2001 and reopened in 2009, hosting quarter horse races, or races of a quarter mile.
“It’ll be interesting to see what kind of diverse audience we get,” he said.
Brunetti called the more $75 million spent on the project “money well-spent,” and he said he hopes to expand the park’s facilities further in the future to include retail, lodging and more entertainment.
“We want a shopping center. We want a hotel,” he said. “What the public wants is what we want to deliver,” he said.
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