The Casino at Ocean Downs opened this week, and it was an occasion I didn’t want to miss. Here are some observations:

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– Overall, the facility seemed to meet or surpass most expectations and its opening certainly created some excitement among area residents. When I arrived at 11:30 a.m. to the opening ceremony, there was a line of 100 people waiting to be the first in the doors at 1 p.m. This was a surprise to me, since the place is going to be open from 8 a.m.-2 a.m. every day, but one resident I spoke to said she wanted to be a “part of local history.” She said she had $100, or a single Ben Frank” as she put it, in her purse and planned to play the $1 slot machines for as long as she could. When we parted, I gave her my business card and asked her to give me a call and let me know how she made out on the first day. I have not heard back yet.

– I’ve never seen State Senate President Mike Miller speak in person before, and he made quite an impression at Tuesday’s event. In a impromptu speech, he acknowledged three other senators in attendance from the western shore and spoke highly of casino owner William Rickman.

Miller said Rickman is to be congratulated on opening this casino, outlining all the concessions he had to make to be granted a permit, including not being able to have a restaurant, more than one piano, a hotel and the lowest profit take of any other slots parlor in the state. He said the state should be issuing a commendation to Rickman for all he endured and looked beyond to make this casino a reality.

Rickman, who did not speak during the public ceremony, was standing close by smiling and seemed embarrassed by the attention.

– While all the monotonous pomp and circumstance of the ribbon cutting ceremony was taking place, I walked around the entire casino, including the Dine ‘n Dash, which basically offers essential types of food like burgers, pizzas and salads. It was interesting to overhear some folks standing around in the eatery discussing how a permit had already been filed for a fine dining restaurant on site. That’s something that is not currently allowed on site, but many figure it’s only a matter of time before the legislature loosens some of the restrictions on the facility. It may have just been gossip at this point, but it’s widely acknowledged at some point that property will be home to a hotel, restaurant and other attractions that are currently not allowed. The question many are wondering is: how long will live horseracing continue on the property? For the short term, officials are planning a live meet this summer.

Although its impact varies depending on whom you talk to, the numbers bear out the real estate market is improving throughout Worcester County. Although the consensus remains the market is not where most would like it to be, there’s little disputing 2010 was a year of recovery for this region.

– For 2010, in Ocean City, according to the local multiple listing service, condominium listings declined 15 percent for the year, while contracts jumped 12 percent and settlements climbed 17 percent. As far as single-family home sales in the resort go, listings dropped 11 percent in 2010, and contracts and settlements each increased by 15 percent.

– In Worcester County, for 2010, it was much of the same as in Ocean City, as listings declined by 8 percent and contracts spiked 25 percent and settlements climbed 24 percent.

It was amazing to see what transpired in Berlin on New Year’s Eve, and I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy the festivities. It’s truly an example of a basic idea, inspired largely by resident Barb Stack, blossoming into a full-blown success. Congratulations to all involved for thinking outside the box and bringing a new event to Berlin. It was enjoyed by about 2,000 people of all ages, and we look forward to partaking in the event for years to come.

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