Crowds lined up hours before the opening Wednesday of the $440 million resort and casino in Seneca County

TYRE — Jordan Journell was a Thruway toll collector before Wednesday. That’s when — with a smile on his face, over a table spread with shiny new playing cards — he became a dealer at del Lago.

“I didn’t want to be in a small box anymore,” said Journell, who lives in Geneva. “I wanted to spread my wings.”

Del Lago Resort and Casino opened its doors Wednesday morning to thousands of people wanting to be the first to experience the $440 million venue on Route 414 in Tyre, Seneca County. Lines formed early, snaking along the outside of the huge gaming/entertainment complex just off the Thruway.

After the pomp and circumstance inside, where VIPs and guests gathered for speeches and a ribbon cutting, the doors were thrown open to a cheering crowd. Some jumped up and screamed as they bounded through the doors, as guests and media who were already inside caught the excitement on cameras and smartphones.

Gerry Caruso of Rochester came with family including her mom, Maryann Beach of Huron, Wayne County. The group hit a few slot machines first and planned to make their way around the 94,000-square-foot casino floor with its 2,000 slot machines and 89 gaming tables, including 12 for poker.

Del Lago’s lavish features include decorative mirrors, fountains, plants and MacKenzie-Childs designer decor. Del Lago has a farmers market buffet, a 2,400-person entertainment venue, and restaurants and lounges including a bar/lounge in the center of the gaming floor. A 4,200-square-foot food court contains Savor NY-MacKenzie-Childs at del Lago. The 2,000-square food shop features MacKenzie-Childs creations and other locally made products from Finger Lakes wineries, breweries, and makers of cheeses and spirits. This summer, de Lago will open the addition of a 205-room hotel, spa, banquet facility and cafe/bar.

“I can see people staying two or three days here,” said Juris Basens, del Lago senior vice president and assistant general manager, during a casual conversation before the opening.

Basens, who lives in Victor, said he has been in the gaming business for 40 years. He started out as a dealer and worked his way up. Along the way, he met del Lago co-chairman Thomas C. Wilmot Sr., moved from Louisiana to the Finger Lakes region and never left.

Wilmot shared Basens’ excitement in the opening of the 24-hour resort and casino that was years in the making, from concept to completion. The project employed 1,800 people during construction and created 1,500 permanent jobs. Close to 300 more jobs will be added this summer with the opening of the hotel/spa and related amenities.

What does Wilmot think of concerns over the future of Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Farmington, Ontario County, just 27 miles to the west? He said market studies showed del Lago would take about 20 percent of Finger Lakes video lottery terminal business. “Competition is a good thing,” Wilmot said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo attended the press conference and ceremonial ribbon cutting in the food court, where other dignitaries included Jeff Babinski, del Lago Executive Vice President/General Manager; and co-chairmen Wilmot and Brent Stevens. State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua; former state Sen. Michael Nozzolio of Fayette; and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, were also there, along with officials from the town of Tyre, Seneca County and surrounding communities.

Cuomo called del Lago — which means “of the lakes” — a “magnificent monument” to the “positive synergy” in New York. The state once had “a sense of hopelessness,” Cuomo said, adding del Lago is now counted with other successes in the Empire State such as the thriving food-and beverage industries.

“Today, this is about seeing dreams come true,” Cuomo said.

Del Lago is projected to bring in 3.2 million visitors per year. It is also expected to bring in about $260 million in gross gaming revenue, $68 million in gaming taxes to New York state, and $3.4 million each to the town of Tyre and Seneca County.