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Casino at Nemacolin welcomes crowd of 200, with good fortune for 2 as doors open

| Monday, July 1, 2013, 11:38 p.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Virginia McDowell (center), president and CEO of Isle of Capri, cuts the ribbon on Monday, July 1, 2013, to mark the official opening to the public of opening of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Fayette County.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Ernie Cruea, of Waldorf, Md., rolls the first dice on Monday, July 1, 2013, in Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Fayette Ccounty. Cruea won the opportunity by receiving a marked bag that was handed out after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Dave Moyemont of Mt. Pleasant plays black jack on Monday, July 1, 2013, the opening day of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Dealers stand at the ready on opening day of Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin on Monday, July 1, 2013. The casino opened to the public after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Evan R. Sanders | Tribune-Review
Rich Laudon (from left), Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin general manager, applauds along with Joesph Hardy, founder of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodlands; resort owner and president Maggie Hardy Magerko; and Virginia McDowell, president and CEO of Isle of Capri, on opening day on Monday, July 1, 2013.

A Somerset County woman who arrived earlyon Monday for the grand opening of Pennsylvania's 12th casino found out she was a winner before she even walked through the front doors.

“I'm excited because I'm a winner already,” said Rosa Uphold, 62, of Confluence as she waited with about 200 others outside the entrance to Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin in Fayette County for its noon opening. “They gave me $20 for the first pull.”

Uphold found the $20 and one of two certificates that were hidden in T-shirts the casino gave away for its grand opening. Hers entitled her to make the first slots' pull at the $60 million casino at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort near Farmington.

Ernie Cruea, 69, of Waldorf, Md., found the second certificate. His entitled him to make the first dice toss at the craps table.

“I'm not a frequent winner, but I'm a frequent player,” said Cruea, who went on to roll a seven with the first toss of the dice. “My motto is, I lose responsibly.”

Uphold's first several pulls did not net her a cash payout, but she walked away with $17 in credits to play on other machines.

“It was pretty awesome,” Uphold said after a handful of news photographers caught her historic pull on camera.

The 24-hour casino, operated through a partnership between the resort and Isle of Capri Casinos Inc., has 600 slot machines, 28 table games and two restaurants. It opened to the public after conducting two successful test nights on Thursday and Saturday that generated $26,500 for five charities, according to Virginia McDowell, president and CEO of Isle of Capri.

More than 1,000 patrons visited the casino in its first 4 12 hours of operation, said resort spokesman Jeff Nobers.

“The line is still well out the door,” Nobers said at 5 p.m. “We expect it will peak around 9 p.m., after people get off work.”

Cruea said the casino is a nice addition to the resort, which he and his wife have visited more than 30 times during the past eight years. The couple booked their rooms in April to coincide with the casino's opening.

“I think it's great,” Cruea said. “Not that there isn't enough to do here already, but this gives a nice spin to it.”

Others, like Dave Moyemont, 54, of Mt. Pleasant Township, said the casino offers an indoors entertainment option for when he and his wife, Denise, 53, are boating on nearby Yough Lake.

“When we come up here in the summertime and it's a rainy day, we'll come here,” Moyemont said as he waited for the dealer to shuffle cards at the black jack table.

Nemacolin founder Joe Hardy and his daughter, Maggie Hardy Magerko, resort owner and president, joined McDowell for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“I'm floored when I go in there, with the way it came together,” Hardy said of the casino, which is in the resort's former Wildside entertaintment center. “It's beautiful. It's worth the wait and the work.”

Pennsylvania's Gaming Control Board granted Nemacolin the last Category 3 resort gaming license in April 2011, but construction was delayed when Mason-Dixon resort near Gettysburg challenged that decision.

In affirming the gaming board's decision in August, the Supreme Court rejected Mason-Dixon's contention that Nemacolin was ineligible and its allegations the board was politically influenced.

Hardy said the casino should become the cornerstone of the county's tourism industry.

He said the jobs it created — 500 through Isle of Capri and 200 at the resort — are exactly what Fayette needs to help persuade young people not to move elsewhere for work.

“There are careers here,” Hardy said. “These are opportunities so young people don't move away.”

Hardy Magerko said more jobs are on the way with the planned construction next year of a 125-room hotel near the casino. It will feature rates that are less expensive than the current daily starting rate of $339 for rooms at the resort.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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