TYRE — In its first week of operation, del Lago Resort & Casino already had its first big payout on the slot machines when one player cashed in on a $25,000 jackpot.
In fact, casino General Manager Jeff Babinski said the resort paid out over $700,000 in prizes its first week, and in addition to the slot machine winner, he said there were “some big payouts on the tables, too.”
However, the biggest winners, Babinski says, are the state of New York, Seneca County and the town of Tyre.
Babinski spoke at a press conference on the third floor of The Vine entertainment venue as part of Friday night’s VIP grand opening. Speaking primarily to lawmakers — many of whom helped move the $440-million resort project along — and members of the Wilmot family, he noted that del Lago’s $50 million 2016 licensing fee was distributed this way:
$40 million in school aid for the New York State Education Fund;
$2.5 million for the town of Tyre as host municipality;
$2.5 million for Seneca County as host county;
And $5 million shared between Broome, Chemung, Schuyler, Tompkins and Wayne counties as the counties in the state’s Region 5.
“This is a game-changer,” Babinski said.
State Sen. Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, was one of several local elected officials who addressed the gathering, and she said, “This means so much to our community.”
Bob Shipley, of Waterloo, chairman of the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, noted that 45 percent of the casino’s 1,500 employees are from Seneca County, and Babinski went even further by noting that 78 percent of the employees are from Seneca, Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, Cayuga or Onondaga counties.
Additionally, Babinski noted that del Lago adopted an ambitious goal of hiring 30 percent minorities and women as part of Gov. Cuomo’s Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprise Program, and for each reporting period to date — including the year-long construction process — del Lago has met or exceeded the 30-percent threshold.
The casino has been buzzing ever since it opened on Feb. 1, drawing over 6,500 people that very first day.
“Opening day was better than I could ever have imagined,” said Babinski, who has been part of four other casino openings and said del Lago “had the biggest opening day crowd I’ve ever seen. I was blown away.”
Twice in the first week of operations — on opening day and again on Saturday evening, Feb. 11 — the casino, which has a total occupancy capacity of about 7,300, had to institute a one-person-in, one-person-out routine for a bit of time.
A number of people Friday, including Babinski, praised del Lago’s security department, which is headed up by Genevan Jimmer McCormack, and while the facility’s two major restaurants — Portico and the Sociale Café and Bar — are not yet open, Babinski reported that the food court and the Farmers Market Buffet have been doing a brisk business, with buffet staff serving 2,100 meals alone on opening day.
“My job is not to come up with the next big marketing plan,” said Babinski, who has been putting in 16-hour days. “Right now, it’s making sure that our 1,500 team members love coming to work every day, that it’s a job well done for all of our visitors, and that’s the feedback that I am getting right now.”
He also said del Lago is very close to rolling out its program that will allow casino players to earn points that they can use at other businesses in the region, outside of the casino.
“Most casinos want to keep you inside,” he said, “but we want you to get outside our four walls and check out the Magee Diners of the world and the Muranda Cheeses of the world and all our wineries.”
After Babinski’s address, the dignitaries and others were treated to a reception at Portico’s — including a short visit by celebrity chef Fabio Viviani who will return later this month for the restaurant’s grand opening — and then were guests at the first show in The Vine by English rockers Bad Company.