A sea of gambling enthusiasts and would-be enthusiasts crowded the plaza outside Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati in the hours before the $400 million facility opened for business.
An initial crowd that numbered in the hundreds at 6 p.m. numbered more than 5,000 by 8:30 p.m. and many in it became more excited as a deejay played a party-ready remix of new and classic dance hits.
People in the crowd could see themselves on a large video monitor that was positioned near the casino’s main entrance, dancing and singing the night away as they waited for an elaborate fireworks show and the opening of the facility’s glass doors.
When 6 p.m. arrived, the time casino operators said the public could begin lining up to get inside at 8:30 p.m., Sharon Moore of Cincinnati was among the first in line.
“We’re just so excited to see history being made and be a part of it,” said Moore, who came with her husband, Greg.
“We’re looking forward to playing those slots and hitting those margaritas at [Jimmy Buffett’s] Margaritaville,” she said in reference to one of the independent restaurants in the $400 million facility.
Moore, who said she loves slot machines “from the penny on up,” plans to spend about $20. Her husband disagreed.
“If this is her first night, twenty dollars isn’t going to cut it. We plan on blowing a lot,” he said.
Crystal Lute, of Greenville, was also among those lined up to get inside.
“Indiana is just not that just further, but I’d just like to keep the money in Ohio and keep it for local people and keep our jobs,” she said.
Tipp City resident Ronald Smith, who said two of his Dayton friends were hired to work at the casino — one as a dealer and the other with the grounds crew — noted that he hopes those jobs will spur more job growth closer to home.
“There will be a lot coming here from Dayton,” said Smith, who with wife Elizabeth were fifth and sixth in line.
Just before the casino opened to the general public, the crowd outside that had grown to more than 5,000, according to Rock Gaming spokeswoman Jennifer Kulczycki, was treated to a 12- to 13-minute fireworks show and a rallying speech from Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.
“Are you ready to get into Horseshoe casino?” he shouted to the cheering crowd.
Mallory thanked the Rock Gaming and Caesars Entertainment partnership that made the casino a reality, calling them “a great partnership for the city of Cincinnati.
“This is part of the progress that we continue to see in our city, from The Banks to Fountain Square to Over-the-Rhine to here at the Horseshoe Casino, right out to our neighborhoods,” he said. “We are seeing excitement in Cincinnati.”
Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rock Gaming, said the 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year casino is a part of the city’s “urban renaissance” that will help area restaurants and attractions.
“It won’t be its own separate bunker, Gilbert said. “It’ll be part of the fabric of downtown.”
The Queen City facility is the last of Ohio’s four casinos to open.
At 10 p.m., a long line of casino-goers snaked out the casino doors and down a side street.
The casino has about 2,000 slots, 87 table games, 31 World Series of Poker tables, three outward facing restaurants, five places to dine just off the gaming floor and a 33,000 square-foot meetings and events space
Ohio voters approved four casinos in 2009 after a statewide legalization campaign touted the boost the casinos would give to Ohio’s economy.
The state collects 33 percent in taxes from the casinos, which is distributed to county governments (51 percent), Ohio public school districts (34 percent), the host city (5 percent), Ohio State Racing Commission (3 percent), Ohio Casino Control Commission (3 percent), state law enforcement agencies training (2 percent) and treatment of problem gambling and substance abuse.
Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati had been projected to generate $111 million in gambling tax revenue every year, according to a 2009 report from the Office of Budget Management, Davis said. A report from that office issued last month puts projected gambling tax revenues closer to $75 million, based on actual revenues from Ohio’s three other casinos.
— Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg and News Center 7’s Layron Livingston, reporting from Cincinnati