BANGOR – Showgirls and Hollywood look-alikes greeted the first visitors Tuesday as Penn National Gaming Inc.’s $132 million Hollywood Slots opened its doors to the public.

Hundreds who waited for up to two hours to begin playing slot machines formed a line that snaked outside the complex, which is directly across the street from the city’s famous Paul Bunyan statue. Inside, a Jack Nicholson look-alike flanked by showgirls was waiting to greet them.

“Finally, the day that we’ve all been waiting for has arrived,” Bangor Mayor Susan Hawes said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony before the crowd fanned out across the gaming floor.

The grand opening of the so-called “racino” built across the road from Bass Park and the Bangor Raceway harness-racing track fulfilled the promised expansion of a temporary slots parlor that opened nearly three years ago at the former Miller’s Restaurant.

The new gambling complex features 1,000 slot machines and a 1,500-spot parking garage as well as a 152-room hotel that’s slated to open later this summer.

“We go to Foxwoods once in a while, but now we’ll be going here,” said Bernice Dougherty of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, who was accompanied by Clayton Gardner of East Machias. Both were at the opening of the original slots parlor.

In addition to the sunglass-wearing Jack Nicholson and feather-festooned show girls were others impersonating Mae West, Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball, in keeping with the flashy Hollywood theme that Penn National adopted after its 2003 acquisition of Hollywood Casino Corp.

On stage, a rock band performed as the players began inserting currency and paper tickets into colorful machines bearing names like Gold Wild, Triple Double Red Hot Strike and Blazing Sevens. The cost for playing the machines ranged from a penny to $10.

Mainers approved a referendum in 2003 allowing up to 1,500 slot machines at commercial harness-racing tracks in Bangor and Scarborough. Only Bangor residents provided the necessary local approval, allowing Penn National to move forward with its project.

Since then, there have been other proposals for slots parlors, but none have gained traction. Last year, state voters rejected an Indian-run slots facility in Washington County. This November, voters will have their say on a proposal for slot machines in western Maine.

While Hollywood Slots still has its critics, those who attended the opening on Tuesday welcomed the expanded facility, which boosted the number of slots from 475 to 1,000. Penn National has the option of adding another 500 slot machines.

In her brief remarks, Hawes hailed Hollywood Slots as a good corporate citizen and said the new Art Deco-style complex will enhance Bangor’s stature as a destination for visitors.

The first in line when the slots opened at 10 a.m. was Dian Joyce of Inverness, Fla., a transplanted Mainer who drove up with her parents, Bill and Laurel Mackie of Gorham. Like other early birds, they thought the doors would open at 8 a.m.

Joyce took the two-hour wait in stride. “I’ll just be holding onto my money longer,” she said.

Also at the front of the line waiting to try their luck were Liz and Steve Ashe of Bangor, who said they were the last players at the old site. That facility closed Sunday night so its 475 machines could be moved to the new location.

“We closed the place. We were the last ones there Sunday and we left with two jackpots and a lot of money,” said Liz Ashe.

Ashe said she took in nearly $10,000 that night, and she showed off a ticket for $5,000 in jackpot winnings to prove her good fortune.

Asked her secret, she replied, “There isn’t one. It’s just being in the right place at the right time. It’s called dumb luck.”


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