CLEVELAND - Let there be no doubt Cleveland will be getting a second casino, said owner Dan Gilbert.
"Phase II is absolutely going to happen and we're more excited about that than Phase I," Gilbert said. He emphasized the opening of the Phase I Horseshoe in the Higbee Building enabled them time to study the market, and learn what customers want and don't want.
"It was very important for us to learn what happened in Phase I," he said.
"If you look at Caesars Total Reward database, those are the amount of people who have signed up throughout Caesars system who are in Ohio and surrounding areas, there's a percentage of them who have come to Horseshoe and there's a larger percentage that still would come more often if a casino had different kinds of things.
"You know Phase I doesn't have the kinds of amenities that a full-blown, from-the-ground-up casino would have, so there's a big part of that marketplace," said Gilbert.
That's why the Phase II casino will have a different feel than Phase I.
"We want to make it the best it possibly can be," he said. "That area along the river there, the entertainment center, Gateway, I mean it really gives an opportunity for you to do something much, much better than just putting a casino with four walls in there."
Gilbert said they are in engineering and design talks now.
Looking back on the Horseshoe Cleveland's first year Gilbert labeled it a success even though numbers were lower than what state analysts initially projected.
"It's definitely a profitable casino and we're happy with it for sure, but more important is what we're learning. We're learning a lot," he said. "For me, it was more important to understand, the learning of what this market's all about and what long term is going to work."
Those numbers were impacted as well by the roughly 800 Internet cafes that popped up in recent years across the state. The Ohio attorney general said those sites had more slot machines than the state's four casinos and two racinos combined.
Those gambling operations received a boost Wednesday when the Ohio State Senate passed legislation that will essentially eliminate the Internet cafe industry in the state.
Gilbert also said a skywalk connecting the parking garage to the Horseshoe will be coming.
"That is something that was absolutely needed and wanted by our customers," he said.
When asked about Forest City's reported plans to sell off some of their assets surrounding the casino Gilbert said there would be interest on his part.
"We're always looking for properties and always open to look at properties that are around any of our assets to see if it makes sense if it fits in," he said. "I don't have any detail on exactly what pieces at this point."