Mayor cuts ribbon, casino opens doorsWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | email@example.com
Opening day. Today was that day when the din of the chattering dealers rose and fell with fevered anticipation, not unlike a child’s rushed breathing and babbling on a birthday morning before the guests come bearing gifts.
The employees, the politicians, the media personnel and the businesspeople walked the granite floors of Hollywood Casino with much urgency, mingling among models clad in feathered headdresses and musicians preparing to belt out the casino’s first tunes.
The commotion fell silent for 25 minutes Tuesday morning, as hundreds of people leaned toward a black and gold ribbon that symbolized the end of months of hard labor and planning.
M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr set the tone at the ribbon cutting.
“William Randolph Hearst would envy this right now,” Farr said.
The Toledo native reflected how Toledo has changed since his childhood days in the North End some 70 years ago.
“The closest thing we had to something like this was George’s Cigar Store on Superior Street,” he said. “It was a front; you’d go in there and buy cigars and of course you’d go to the backroom and that’s where all the gambling was done. This, I think, outdoes it.”
Farr stood at a podium dwarfed by the casino’s high ceilings, the art deco columns and the backlit wall panels, surrounded by 220 televisions, 2,002 slot machines, 60 table games and 20 live poker tables.
Mayor Mike Bell called the place “unbelievable,” saying that the casino is one of the elements that could help turn the city’s economy around.
“This is a great day when you walk in and see people who are smiling because they’ve been unemployed for so long and now they’re going to be able to actually take care of their families,” he said.
The casino hired about 1,300 employees, 90 percent of whom are Northwest Ohio locals. Law mandates that Ohio casinos must pay a fixed tax of 33 percent of their gross revenues, of which 51 percent will be distributed among Ohio’s 88 counties with half of each county’s share going toward the county’s largest city if the population exceeds 80,000. Thirty-four percent of the revenue will fund public school districts. Five percent will go to host cities, three percent to Ohio Casino Control Commission, three percent to the Ohio State Racing Commission fund, two percent to state law enforcement training and two percent to a state problem gambling and addictions fund.
The casino collected at least $100,000 during last Thursday’s VIP night alone. Proceeds went to charity — General Manager Richard St. Jean awarded both the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo and the YMCA checks for $50,000 from Thursday’s earnings.
Bell cut the ribbon after the crowd counted down from 10. Doors opened to the public shortly afterward.
Dealer Robert Navarre, who awaited players at a big six table Tuesday morning, said this is his first dealing gig. But he’s no stranger to casinos.
“I’ve wanted this to come here for a long time, I’ve gone to Vegas 10 years in a row so I’ve been ready for this for a long, long time,” he said. “This is better than Vegas — Vegas has nothing on this casino here.”