Jordan and Patty Vangel were huddled outside Miami Valley Gaming Thursday when the racino — Ohio’s newest gambling facility — opened one hour and one minute ahead of schedule.
“We were surprised. We walked in and started playing,” Jordan Vangel said, while seated at one of 1,600 electronic slot machines, known in Ohio as video lottery terminals.
The $110 million, 188,000-square-foot complex opened after less than a year of construction just east of the Ohio 63 interchange to Interstate 75 near Monroe.
Miami Valley Gaming is the seventh casino or racino competing for the gambling market along the 90-mile corridor from Columbus to Cincinnati and eastern Indiana. By next September, two more racinos are to open in the area, including Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway in north Dayton.
Opening early was about customer service, part of a strategy designed to win over the regional market, said Jim Simms, president and general manager of Miami Valley Gaming. Submit your questions for a live chat with Jim Simms today!
“Everything’s about the guests,” Simms said. “This was the first gesture we could make.”
The Vangels were among 50-100 people who showed up early in hopes of being among the first inside when doors opened as scheduled at noon. By early afternoon, customers signing up for gaming privileges were lined up 10 deep.
The Vangels, of Washington Twp., Montgomery County, said they were glad to have driven less than 30 minutes from their home — considerably closer than Scioto Downs Racino, south of Columbus and about 90 miles from Miami Valley Gaming.
Asked how often they would return, Jordan Vangel said, “Off the record, too often.” He then agreed to put the comment on the record as his wife turned 45 cents on a penny slot machine into $140.
While fond of slot machines, Jordan Vangel said he and his wife were careful not to gamble more than they could afford.
“You don’t gamble with your rent money. You don’t pay your rent with your gambling money,” he said. “We just want to have fun, that’s all.”
As the facility opened, crews were still hanging the 70-foot sign out front. Contractors planned on staying for three more months to finish the grandstand and 5/8 mile harness track.
Still Miami Valley Gaming was anxious to open, ahead of racinos within 30-minute drives in Dayton and Anderson Twp., east of Cincinnati, to be open by next September.
“We put a building up in a greenfield in 11 months and four days,” said Chris DeRose, general superintendent for LP Ciminelli, general contractor on the project. DeRose credited local tradesmen in helping complete his eighth racino, combining gambling on slot machines, live and simulcast horse races under one roof.
Talk of adding slot machines at Lebanon Raceway, where harness races had been held since 1950, began in 2002, said Keith Nixon Jr. Nixon is part of one of the families whose companies operated at the track, before it moved from the county fairgrounds in Lebanon to the new location.
In 2006, Nixon said discussions began with the Delaware North Cos., the global gaming and concession company that formed a joint venture with Churchill Downs to form Miami Valley Gaming.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet moment,” said Nixon, who remains a consultant on the project. “We’re just excited to finally be where we are today.”
Linda and Richard Phillips of Oregonia said they were there by chance.
“We took 50 bucks, let’s see how long we can stay here,” he said.