CLEVELAND - After a dramatic countdown and a lot of high-fives, the first official patrons walked into the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland at 9:30 p.m. Monday.
Not even two hours after it opened, the Horseshoe Casino paid out its first $50,000 jackpot.
A line outside the casino wrapped around the block until 2:45 a.m. when the crowds died down. Most people our Scripps station in Cleveland spoke with loved the new casino.
"It's a beautiful casino and we kind of like came out even and we had a good time," said Chris Butler, a Cleveland resident. "Everybody that worked in there was very nice."
"Ah man, it's beautiful they got everything, every kind of machine," said Barbara Dolman. "It's like a ballroom. They've got all kinds of restaurants."
"It was overwhelming," said Shannon Tarnaski. "It was just very big, bigger than a lot of other casinos close by."
"I can't wait to get back," one man said. "I'm going home to cash this check and I'll be back in the morning."
There was not a ribbon cutting in the traditional sense. Instead, the casino marked its arrival with a unique 3D video projected onto the side of the Higbee Building, featuring iconic images of a city hoping for new growth.
"This is an urban casino. This is a casino designed and developed to help invigorate downtown Cleveland and make downtown Cleveland an entertainment center," Rock Gaming chairman and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said. "Hopefully, you'll frequent the bars and hotels… We're promoting two-way traffic."
In the months leading up to the casino opening, new businesses have been opening their doors downtown and existing businesses have hired on more staff.
"When you walk into the casino today, hopefully you'll see more than a casino, but a classy and intimate entertainment center that really has the soul of Cleveland involved here," Gilbert told the cheering crowd.
Gilbert thanked the voters of Ohio as well as the 1,600 employees now working at the casino. He said 94 percent of them are from this community.
"One of the things I'll tell is they're very nervous, so give them some patience," general manager Marcus Glover said. He said the employees appreciate the pride and swagger of the Horseshoe brand, calling them some of the best and brightest in northeast Ohio.
About $350 million was invested into Phase I of the casino and it's expected to bring in 5 million visitors annually. Work on Phase II will start soon along Huron Street across from Quicken Loans Arena and will be operated by one of Caesars Entertainment's other brands.
"We've never welcomed more warmly, we've never worked in a more supportive and engaging environment," said Caesars CEO Gary Loveman. The world's largest gaming company is already in 14 different juridictions, Loveman said.
"It's here. There's been a lot of attempts and people said it would never happen," said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. "Those investments in this casino will help us be a 24-hour city."
"It's time. It's time. It's definitely time," said Gilbert, sporting a red bowtie, which has become the signature look of his son, Nick.