Opening of casino up to Ohio Casino Control Commission now

Apr 23, 2012 9:50 AM

Ohio regulators on Wednesday got a favorable recommendation from a gambling consulting group to issue an operating license to a company slated to open Ohio’s first casino next month, but they also recommended it continue to monitor the financial stability of one of the entities that make up that company.

Representatives from the Spectrum Gaming Group presented a summary of its report Wednesday to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. It listed Rock Ohio Caesars’ financial background and history, including that of Caesars Entertainment Corporation, an entity that jointly makes up Rock Ohio Caesars. The report also scrutinized a casino employee’s accounting license.

But Spectrum Managing Director Fredric Gushin said during his presentation that despite those findings, the joint venture between Caesars Entertainment Corporation and another group, Rock Gaming, more than satisfies the standards for financial stability to access a casino operating license. It applauded the joint company’s "comprehensive plan" for financing, constructing and operating its casinos, one of which is slated to open within weeks in Cleveland and another in Cincinnati next year.

Spectrum notes in its report that there are several intervening entities with similar names that make up the Rock Ohio Caesars company. It highlighted Caesars Entertainment Corporation, one of those entities, and listed the financial history of debt.

Caesars Entertainment Corporation spokeswoman Jan Jones said the company, which she refers to as simply Caesars in statement, is continuing to improve its finances, including reducing its debt over the last few years.

"It is unfortunate that the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s gaming consultant was factually inaccurate in the hearing today regarding many matters, including several statements regarding Caesars’ financial position," she said. "We have a 75-year history of operating at the highest levels of integrity and operational excellence and take very seriously our commitment to continuing to operate at that level."

Spectrum’s two-part report, which spans several hundred pages, also listed concerns over Roger Lee Dillard III, the vice president of finance for the Cleveland casino. It questioned whether Dillard accurately disclosed information regarding his Certified Public Accountant license in North Carolina. Another statement from Caesars Entertainment Corporation on Wednesday night said Dillard was addressing the matter.

Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, called the report routine. He said a background check is conducted to comply with state law before an operating license can be given.

"It was a very thorough investigation of the entity and individuals applying for a license," he said. "And Spectrum’s analysis is that they’re suitable under the revised code."

The commission will decide May 2 if Rock Ohio Caesars can proceed with its May opening of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. Penn National Gaming plans to open a casino in Toledo a few weeks later.

Representatives from Rock Ohio Caesars will give their own presentation at a second Commission meeting scheduled Thursday. It’s unclear if they will address Spectrum’s findings.

Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2009 that authorized four casinos in the state’s four largest cities, including Columbus. Certain revenue from the casinos will be distributed to public school districts, cities, counties, and other programs.

Rock Ohio Caesar’s Horseshoe Casino Cleveland will have a 100,000-square-foot gambling floor with 2,100 slot machines, 63 tables and 30 poker tables. They expect to have 1,600 employees.

Rock Ohio Caesars also is constructing a similar Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati. The $400 million development in the northeast corner of the city’s center is scheduled to open in spring 2013. It’s had two construction accidents in the last six months, including a floor collapse in January that injured at least a dozen employees, and a partial garage collapse in December. No one was injured.