Opening of Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati might be delayed

Ohio may change license fee and taxes

CINCINNATI - Developers of the new Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati said the opening might be delayed until the first quarter of 2013, three months later than planned.

Rock Gaming LLC President/COO Matt Cullen made that statement Monday because Ohio Governor John Kasich wants to review the amount of licensing fees and taxes for casinos in the state.

Ground was broken Feb. 4 on the $400 million project and much of the Broadway Commons site downtown has already been cleared. The project is on a construction fast track because Rock Gaming is trying to get the building enclosed before winter so interior work can continue during the colder months.

Cullen said delays could be expensive, especially since a crucial order involving millions of dollars of materials has to be made soon.

"We're reaching the critical point on whether we order steel in the next week or so," he said. "We'll likely miss being enclosed this winter and thus miss about a quarter of completing the project."

He said that could delay the opening from the end of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013.

Ohio voters approved the so-called Casino Amendment in 2009. That gave Rock Gaming the authority to build casinos in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Penn National Gaming, owner of Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, won the right to construct facilities in Toledo and Columbus.

The licensing fee within that measure was set at $50 million and the tax rate 33 percent of revenue after winnings are paid out. Governor Kasich and other legislators have suggested changing those figures. The licensing fee might double and the Commercial Activities tax might be applied.

Kasich wants to hire an advisor to help him decide if those are the proper moves. According to Cullen, that would change the spirit of what voters approved.

"Our sense is that after a very robust discussion of this throughout a lengthy campaign in 2009, the voters of Ohio approved a economic proposal associated with the casinos," he said. "We're not aware of any process that would suggest that now it should be negotiated."

Cincinnati City Councilmember Chris Bortz, a fiscal conservative, said he feels the Governor is acting in a fiscally responsible manner.

"I think it's OK to stop, catch our breath and make sure we're making the right choices," he said. "I support the Governor on this. I think he's doing the right thing to slow down and get good advice before making these decisions."

When the Cincinnati and Cleveland casinos begin operations, Cullen said Rock Gaming will have invested more than $1 billion in the project.

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