Dry run is Cincinnati casino's last big hurdle

Mar 1, 2013 9:21 AM

Slot machines were clanging and bets were flying for the first time Wednesday as the last of Ohio’s four voter-approved casinos began trying to clear a final major hurdle before being allowed to open to the public.

Up to 15,000 invited guests planned to attend an eight-hour dry run of the $400 million Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati on Wednesday. The event is closed to the public and media.

Agents with the Ohio Casino Control Commission will be watching every aspect of the casino’s operations during that time and well into Thursday morning, when workers still will be counting the money brought in.

“Slots, table games, the work in the cashier cage, the counting room, the main bank — we’re looking at all these sensitive areas to make sure they’re complying with the rules and regulations,” said Matt Schuler, executive director of the commission. “All aspects of the casino’s operations are important to us.”

Any major operational problems, such as being unable to accurately count the money, could delay Monday’s opening of the casino.

No problems delayed the opening of Ohio’s three other casinos beginning in May in Cleveland and Toledo; Columbus’ casino opened in October.

If Cincinnati’s casino opens on time, that will mean the state’s four casinos will have opened in a 10-month period following voter approval in 2009. Voters approved the casinos after a statewide legalization campaign touted the immediate boost the casinos would give to Ohio’s economy and despite strong disapproval from anti-gambling groups and others.

The state collects 33 percent in taxes from the casinos, which is distributed to Ohio’s schools, counties and cities.

Since they opened, the casinos in Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus have earned just under $404 million through the end of January, generating about $133 million in taxes. Once all four are up and running, their yearly revenues are expected to be just under $1 billion.

Members of the media got a first look at the two-story, 400,000-square-foot casino on Tuesday, when workers were busy making last-minute preparations.

The facility includes 2,000 slot machines, 87 table games, a buffet, a VIP players’ lounge with limits as high as $50,000 a hand, a World Series of Poker room, and three outward-facing restaurants, including singer Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and Bobby’s Burger Palace by celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

Flay is expected to attend Monday’s opening.

The casino was built from the ground up in just over two years on what used to be a bedraggled parking lot in the city’s downtown.

Profits from Wednesday’s dry run will be given to charity.

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