For early visitors, Kansas Star Casino looks like a winner

12/23/2011 7:15 AM

12/23/2011 7:15 AM

Area residents have started trying their luck at the new Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane ahead of the official opening Monday, and many expressed relief Thursday that they don’t have to travel far to gamble anymore.

Well, that’s a good thing and a bad thing, said one woman sitting in front of an Alice and the Mad Tea Party slot machine.

“I’m a little nervous this one’s here,” Whitney Schmeidler of Wichita said of the new casino. “It’s so close. It’s not as easy to go to Oklahoma. I and people I know may spend a little too much time here.”

More than 3,000 people started getting cozy at the casino on Wednesday for the first day of a “soft opening” that will continue through Saturday for Players Club members. Anybody can join the Players Club for free, either online at www.kansasstarcasino.com or at the door.

The casino will close for Christmas and open to the public Monday. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. Monday into Tuesday, and then 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. thereafter. Those hours will continue until the casino hires enough employees to be open 24 hours a day as was originally planned. Spokesman Carrie Tedore said the casino hopes to be open 24/7 within the first month.

John Goodwin of Wichita said he’s been going to First Council Casino in Newkirk, Okla., three times a week. That’s about 70 miles away. The Mulvane casino “saves a lot of driving,” he said.

Bob Harris of Benton said he had been going to the casinos in Topeka and Kansas City as well. “Now I jump on the turnpike and I’m here.”

“It’s nice, and it smells good. For a nonsmoker, that’s important,” Harris said. Smoking is allowed on the casino floor, but there is “tremendous” air handling, Tedore said, with the air being completely changed out eight times an hour.

Patricia Lefors of Mulvane was on a roll and didn’t take time to look up much from her penny slot machine after winning $51 and smaller amounts. “I’ve been looking forward to it,” she said of the casino opening. “Now I don’t have to go to Oklahoma.”

As you walk into the casino, slot machines are to the sides, and the game tables are in the center. Video poker and quarter machines are at the back. A variety of music plays, vending machines dispense cigarettes, and waitresses in short black skirts deliver drinks on round trays.

Dick Warren of Wichita said he came down with his brother to check out the casino, but he said he didn’t plan to return until there’s a poker room – one of the elements of the permanent casino that is now under construction. It will contain 50 percent more machines and 30 percent more gaming tables than are in the current building.

“These are the friendliest people I’ve ever seen,” Warren said of the staff.

Lorie Threet of Bel Aire was in her second day as a dealer. She formerly worked as a legal secretary and had to learn all the card games at dealer school in Mulvane.

“Anybody who tells you dealing is easy doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” Threet said. But “it’s been a blast. Everybody’s been nice and gentle.”

The casino is still hiring employees, Tedore said.

“Yeah – just like that! Just like that!” Nick Holzrichter of Halstead yelled as the dice landed on the craps table. He was having a winning day.

“I’m glad it’s close,” Holzrichter said of the new casino. “No more Kansas City. No more Kansas City.”

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