Pennsylvania's top moneymaking casino just got bigger.
Crowds braved the morning chill - with some venturing out in the predawn hours to be among the first to walk through Parx Casino's glass double doors for its 6 a.m. grand opening today.
The $250 million facility is a larger and fancier version of the old PhiladelphiaPark Casino and Racetrack on Street Road in Bensalem, next to which it sits.
"It's beautiful," said retiree Andrea Malloy, 60, one of the first to gamble at the Parx this morning.
Malloy said she got up at 4:30 a.m. at her home in nearby Levittown and joined about 60 others waiting outside the casino an hour later.
"We just chatted," she said. "Body heat kept us warm."
Malloy said she used to arrive early at the old casino so she could play her favorite machines, but was overwhelmed by the number of machines and choices now available.
"I found myself moving around a lot," she said.
Her only complaint: "It's too close for comfort," she said, adding she could see herself visiting the Parx more than the old casino.
Parx's sleek design and state-of-the-art technology, including three hard-to-miss LCD screens at the front entrance, marks the next chapter in the evolution of the state's newest industry.
It features three restaurants, a sports bar and a lounge and entertainment area, and not the least, a 120,000-square foot gaming floor with 3,300 slot machines and 176 electronic table games.
Pennsylvania's casinos, including PhillyPark, grossed more than $1.7 billion in slots revenue last year and are on pace to top $1.9 billion this year, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Two other casinos are on schedule to open next year, including the proposed SugarHouse Casino on Philadelphia's waterfront and a smaller casino resort at the Valley Forge Convention Center in Montgomery County - bringing the total to 11 in the state.
PhillyPark, since debuting Dec. 20, 2006, has been the state's top casino based on slots revenue. It made $28.3 million last month and draws heavily from lower Bucks County, the South Jersey suburbs, and those crossing the bridges from central New Jersey.
Sean Connolly, 35, of Old Bridge, N.J., near East Brunswick, arrived just after 8 a.m. and planted himself at a penny slot machine as around him more and more gamblers filled the casino.
"It's big, open, clean. It's nice," he said looking up at the high ceiling. "I'm surprised how open it is."
He said he used to go to Atlantic city more often, but "this is closer."
Connolly said he planned to have lunch at the casino before heading home to Old Bridge, where he manages a food store.
Contact staff writer Suzette Parmley at 215-854-2594 or firstname.lastname@example.org.