A hard(hat) look at Sandy's Gaming

CANNONSBURG The union welder stood on a ladder, his face mask down, taking the torch to a support beam.

As the white flame touched the metal and the rod, sparks rained down on the concrete floor.

This piece was just another a piece of the puzzle for the future sight of Sandy’s Gaming, due to open in the fall. Revolutionary Racing Chairman Larry Lucas said his birthday is Oct. 12. While he doesn’t think the opening will fall on that day, he hopes to get close enough.

“Horse shoes and hand grenades,” he said. “That’s what we’re shooting for.”

It’s to the back side of the Sand Bar, a circle bar with a stage in the center featuring dueling pianos and other live entertainment. When the doors open, Sandy’s President John Marshall said it will be the first thing patrons will see when they walk inside.

On Friday morning, Marshall led a tour of TV personalities, newspaper reporters, photographers, elected officials, business leaders and various dignitaries through the future casino, displaying the hard work of 200 union tradesmen and women on one of the biggest economic development projects in Boyd County.

Inside the old Sears Building at the KYOVA Mall, the gaming parlor will have 40,000 square feet of gaming space for historical horse racing machines — the Bluegrass workaround for slot machines.

According to Marshall, when Sandy’s opens, there will be a total of 672 machines on the floor, which will ramp up to a grand total of 750.

The casino will have a separate smoking area with 190 machines. Marshall said while Sandy’s does not promote smoking, it recognizes many gamblers prefer to smoke while playing “slot-like machines.”

Towards the rear of the building — where the Sears garage used to be — Marshall said there will be a restaurant offering food and another stage for live entertainment.

With the regulations for sports wagering approved this week by the horse racing commission, the crown jewel of the facility is the sportsbook wagering area lounge.

Marshall said the wagering lounge will feature three state-of-the-art 20-by-12-foot cinema-style screens so bettors can watch their games, along with a separate screen showing off-track races.

“What we’re trying to do is integrate these two types of betting — the traditional horse betting Kentucky is known for and this new type of wagering with the sports betting,” he said.

The Kentucky Sports betting bill passed earlier this year will set the rates for taxes on winnings at 9.75% for in-person wagering vs. 14.25% for online betting, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.

TJ Morrison, who works for Revolutionary Racing, said he hopes that tax difference will give locals an incentive to come to Sandy’s to wager and watch the big game.

Lucas said the addition of sports betting will boost revenues by 10%.

Food service will be available in the lounge, with patrons getting standard bar food fare such as jalapeno poppers, hot dogs and nachos, Marshall said.

Rocky Adkins, Senior Adviser to Gov. Andy Beshear, said the $75 million investment (up from $55 million a year ago), shows what happens when leaders put politics aside and get to work.

“This isn’t a red or a blue project, this isn’t a Democrat or a Republican project, this is a project for Kentucky, for this tri-state area and for this community of Boyd County, Kentucky,” he said.

Adkins continued, “I believe we’re close to something big in this Commonwealth and I know this project is another part of the puzzle we need.”

Lucas said the gaming parlor and the future track, Sandy Ridge — to begin construction on the hill behind Sandy’s in fall 2023— is a great resource in propelling economic development in the area.

“Right now, we’re the bright and shiny object investors see,” he said. “We’re not the beginning nor are we the end. We’re just a conduit. Investors will see us, then it’s up to Boyd County to keep them interested to invest here.”

Once opened, Sandy’s will provide 200 permanent jobs with an average hourly rate of $18 for part-timers and an average annual salary of $48,000 for full-time workers, per an information sheet handed out at the tour.

Marshall said while Sandy’s is targeting for 24/7 hours, starting out it will probably run from 9 a.m. to 4 a.m.