By ANDREW McGINN
And the fact that slots were spinning and beer taps were flowing before 5 on a Monday afternoon is further proof of just how fast news travels in a small town.
Wild Rose Jefferson, the $40 million casino-events center still technically under construction at the corner of Highways 30 and 4, opened for play at 3 p.m. Monday as part of an unadvertised soft opening.
The casino will now be open from 8 a.m. to midnight daily through July 30. Regular hours will commence July 31.
Officially, the casino wasn’t slated to open until Aug. 1, with a grand opening celebration the following weekend featuring fireworks and two concerts by Country Music Hall of Famer Kenny Rogers in the 1,000-seat Greene Room Event Center.
“You know how the grapevine goes,” Bonnie Burkhardt, of Jefferson, said Monday afternoon as she sat at a Red Hot Triple 7 slot machine.
The 72-year-old was proudly clad in one of the green, Grow Greene County T-shirts handed out last spring before the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s public hearing in Jefferson as part of the process of granting a gaming license to Greene County.
“When they said it opened at 3, I had to get in the car,” Burkhardt said.
“I almost went to Prairie Meadows today,” she added.
Because Wild Rose isn’t allowed to advertise the soft opening, it had to rely Monday on word of mouth.
And in Jefferson, word spreads fast — a line greeted casino staff at 3 o’clock.
“I was here when the table opened,” Guy Richardson said as he cashed out after playing blackjack.
The Greene County supervisor and member of Grow Greene County was admittedly pleased with what he saw.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “It’s a great thing for Greene County and Jefferson and the rest of the communities.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun if this is any indication. No one even knows they’re open and they’ve got quite a crowd.”