SOUTH OZONE PARK, NY--November 29, 2011--It was a dark day, figuratively and literally, a day local racing press veterans would describe as a quintessential “Aqueduct day.”

I rolled through a new entrance on Rockaway Boulevard, where once little booths that collected parking admissions stood, and drove straight towards the multi-tiered parking garage.

“Where can I park?” I asked a uniformed attendant. “Just follow the road around, park your car, walk through the doors and you’re in the casino.”

“OK, but the sign said the lot is full.”

“Sir, there’s room for five thousand cars in the garage and there are plenty of spots, it’s not full.”

“Fine, then you should move that sign,” thinking this is not a good start to my first visit to World Resorts Casino New York City but nothing out of the ordinary in this part of the free world.

The attendant was right. There was plenty of parking on a dark and rainy Tuesday morning. I was able to get a spot close to the entrance.

I walked through the double doors, a hard-hatted construction worker held the door open as I approached. “Go win some money,” he said.

Now I’m thinking that’s the kind of hospitality for which casinos are noted and it even extends to laborers. It was a nice thought, even if casino gambling holds no attraction for me whatsoever.

As the tile turned into carpet, I found myself in the food court. I passed by the food stands, the first “Stage Deli, New York City,” then “Popeyes,” the Loos-iana fried chicken folks, and on the other side the room “Wolfgang Puck Express.”

I called Toni to ask permission to cheat on my diet by going on the attack: “How do you expect me to walk passed the Stage Deli and not get a Pastrami on rye?”

“Very simple,” she said. “Put one leg in front of the other and keep walking.” (Later, I opted for the fried chicken, thinking it the lesser of two evils).

“Hey,” there’s a guy over in the food court reading the past performances. I think I’ll go over and ask whether he’s a casino guy who plays the horses or the other way around.”

As I approached, the man looked up and waved. Having shaved his head, I didn’t recognize Ernie Munick, the former Daily News handicapper, intrepid troubadour and now a member the NYRA broadcast team that tape their shows on dark Tuesdays.

“I’m waiting for Popeyes to open at 11,” he said.

“What about the Stage Deli?”

“I don’t really have an opinion on that. I’ve only had a roast beef sandwich there and it was Boar’s Head,” Munick harrumphed.

“Who orders roast beef at the Stage Deli,” I wondered out loud, more judgmental than curious. “They were out of brisket,” he said. “Can you believe that?”

“Try Wolfgang Puck‘s. The thin-crust pizza is excellent, they make it fresh. You might have to wait 15 minutes but it’s worth it,” touted Munick.

Food for thought from Ernie Munick. Prospects were improving.

We parted smiling, as always, and I began looking around. I walked through the food court and found electronic baccarat. I never before have seen electronic table games.

Rows of carrels were set up in front of several fairly large screens, about a dozen people to a row, all with glitzy interactive monitors in front of them to bet on as they held stacks of cards, seemingly for score keeping purposes.

All but a handful were Asians, the dominant demographic this day, but clearly only a part of the melting pot in attendance that is New York City. All groups were well represented. It’s approaching 11 a.m. and not a seat was available in this particular baccarat section. Think I counted four or five of them.

Of all the people we saw in our 2-½ hour visit, the crowd was younger than one you generally see in a racino with VLTs. This wasn’t the mall-walking brigade I was looking at by any means.

There goes another siren, which Munick had told me earlier meant someone had just won big. The first time I heard it I was looking for an exit as it sounded suspiciously like a fire alarm. But no one seemed alarmed; Ernie was right.

There were two wonders of the world I was told were must-see items; a three-story chandelier and a 100-foot television monitor at Bar 360. Yes, drinking in the round; “the place to see and be seen,” said the advertisements.

Can’t quite figure the math but the exact measurements are 16’ x 28’, which is pretty damn big. Fatefully, I happened to see yet another view of Ndamukong Suh doing the Bristol stomp on the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith--even more stupid on a big screen.

But the screen finishes second to the chandelier, which Rainman would call very sparkly. The length is indeed three stories high, with orbs that look like clear Christmas ornaments, upon which are written the names of various countries where presumably the Genting group has outposts.

Electronic roulette is pretty cool, actually, are there are two kinds. My favorite has a virtual female dealer, a very attractive brunette whose smile never quit and with just the right amount of cleavage exposed.

Sex is the chosen tack of casino marketeers, of course, but I must say this was tastefully done and well executed. Did some woman pose for this or was it a geek masterpiece?

Your technology dollars at work.

There is a racetrack here, remember, and when you step outside onto the mezzanine, steps lead to the grandstand track apron. The height is just right to afford a perfect view of Aqueduct, one I’ve never seen before, the midpoint of this balcony smoking area located about 70 yards from the finish line.

This is one “racino” where the racetrack is not a badly kept secret and that was very good too see. There are windows that also look out onto the track from a High Limit VLT betting area.

The building is nowhere near finished and is fairly spectacular already. This is no lipstick on a pig. The covered walkway leading from the subway stop directly into the building was bustling and seems near completion. The second floor, expected to be even more lavish, is scheduled to open December 15.

As I headed back to the garage at around 1 pm this rainy Tuesday, I heard an announcement: “Welcome to Resorts World Casino New York City, an exciting getaway that’s minutes not hours away.”

I got in the Subaru and followed the exit signs out of the garage. This time all the first-floor parking was gone. And, I thought, this is only the beginning.