A majority of the players in the casino have no intention of renting a room at the hotel or taking a seat at Michele's or coughing up the dough to see a show. If they wanted the ritzy trappings of Las Vegas, they'd head out west, or at least to Atlantic City. They are here for one purpose and one purpose only. But there are exceptions.
"The slots here seem to pay out pretty good," Hensley says. "I saw a lot of people winning last night."
Dover Slots isn't the only place here to risk your paycheck, of course. The horse racing simulcast parlor, awash in the thick fog of cigar stink, features myriad rows of mini-TV-equipped consoles, plenty of betting windows and the cheapest beer in the whole place. The harness racing can be watched from the enormous glass-enclosed grandstand, outside along the rails or from the Winners Circle Buffet.
This is the old Dover Downs. No room service here; not even rooms. Just marked-up racing forms and ripped-to-shreds losing tickets. It's a 10-minute walk to the Rollins Center, but it feels miles and years away.
Who knows whether the hotel will be able to attract more than just the day-trippers with their rolls of quarters or the railbirds betting on the long shots? But the rare youngster at Dover Downs this weekend, whose only complaint is that the hotel needs "more money machines," will definitely be back.
"I'm really looking forward to the David Cassidy show in June," Hensley says.
GETTING THERE: Dover Downs is 100 miles northeast of Washington. Take Route 50 east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and follow Route 301 north to Route 302 (right turn at mile marker 102). Turn right on Route 454 at Templeville. Route 454 becomes Route 8 at the Delaware line. In Dover, turn left on Route 13 north. Dover Downs is two miles on the right.
STAYING: Rooms at the Dover Downs Hotel and Conference Center (800-711-5882, www.doverdowns.com) start at $125 Sunday through Thursday, $145 Friday and Saturday. Request a room that overlooks the racetrack. (Very cool.) There are often special rates tied to concerts (David Cassidy on June 1, perhaps).
EATING: Michele's (302-857-2133), on the hotel's mezzanine level, is about the best food to be found in the area, but it's not cheap. Dinner for two will probably run $100-plus, but the surf-and-turf, at $37, is well worth it. Reservations needed, and business casual dress is requested. The Garden Cafe and the Festival Buffet are your typical quick-eats, affordable casino fare and might be just the place if the Lucky Lady slots are being unkind.
INFO: Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, 800-233- 5368, www.visitdover.com