Four years after developers began politicking to legalize wider gambling in Ohio, the nation’s newest casino opened to throngs looking to try their luck.
About 5,000 patrons filled the floor of the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati, which rang with the electric chimes of slot machines as raucous crowds gathered around gambling tables.
“I think it’s leaps and bounds above Hollywood casino,” a riverboat gambling complex about 25 miles west in Lawrenceburg, Ind., said Jim Pickrel of Cincinnati, adding that he plans to switch his gambling to the downtown casino. He said he visits casinos once every three months.
Unprecedented gaming competition facing Indiana from surrounding states is expected to siphon millions of dollars away from 11 Indiana riverboat casinos, most intentionally licensed in economically depressed border communities where they could attract gamblers from out-of-state metropolitan areas such as Cincinnati; Chicago; and Louisville, Ky.
Horseshoe Casino opened after a spectacular 20-minute fireworks display, accompanied by flames shooting from the roof into the night sky.
“The cold’s OK with me, baby!” declared Kim Brooks, 45, of Cincinnati. “We need something to liven up downtown. This will bring in people, visitors and new vitality.”
Brooks was dancing to the thumping beat of music blaring outside as the casino prepared to open. Next to her in line was Rhonda Claiborne, 50, of Cincinnati.
“I’m very excited they’re bringing something downtown,” she said. “I’m ready to go in there and win some money.”
Not everybody planned to take a chance at the slots or tables.
“We’re parrotheads. We don’t get a chance to open a Margaritaville every day,” said Rob Hamilton, 50, a freight supervisor who drove in from Louisville for Monday’s opening that includes a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant. “I’ve been to almost half of them. I’m not here for the casino.”
TV personality and “Iron Chef” Bobby Flay was in town to oversee the opening of Bobby’s Burger Palace, the first Midwestern location in his chain. The burgers on the menu are inspired by his travels around the United States — Napa Valley, Calif.; Dallas; and Santa Fe, N.M.
“I have no chefisms about American cheese. It melts well and really is the best choice for a cheeseburger.”
The eatery also makes its own ice cream for signature shakes, like pistachio and the alcoholic vanilla caramel bourbon shake.
The tropical-themed Margaritaville, with seating for 400, offered customers live music, signature margaritas and specialty dishes like jerk salmon and Baja fish tacos. Bedecked with fake palm trees, a tin-roof bar with walls painted depicting blue skies, the eatery was set up to offer a bit of island getaway amid the bustle of the gaming floor.
Costing more than $450 million, the casino was authorized by Ohio voters in 2009 along with three other casinos — in Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo. The Columbus casino opened in October, and the other two opened in May.
Read more: USAToday