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.
There was not a ribbon cutting in the tradition sense. Instead, the casino marks 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."
"When you walked 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.
"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.
Two Horseshoe Casino locations are expected to open next year; one in Columbus and another in downtown Cincinnati.
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