WEB EXCLUSIVE: Get your first look inside the new Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield Park.
CLEVELAND - With all the hype surrounding the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, lost in the mix is the fact that this is just the first phase of owner Dan Gilbert's casino dream for downtown.
"Phase II is definitely happening," said Gilbert. "We have an initial design of that building. We wanted just to get open here [on Phase I], work out any kinks we have operationally, then we'll be moving full steam ahead on the design and planning of Phase II."
"We paid $85 million for the land so we're certainly not going to sit there and watch weeds grow on it," he said.
The second phase will be located along Huron Street across Terminal Tower Center and Quicken Loans Arena. It's a project that Gilbert envisions will transform the area.
"We sort of think that Phase II and the Q, that corner right there the Huron Street corner there, that it could sort of be a Times Square-ish type of corner of Cleveland," said Gilbert. "We're looking at some renovations of the Q as well, some activity and signage and lighting and maybe that corner becomes another focal point here downtown."
Phase II makes sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is space. The Horseshoe Casino Cleveland has a capacity of just under 11,000 people, according to officials with Rock Gaming. In addition, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2009 allows for up to 5,000 slots machines, the Horseshoe has 2,100.
Through an agreement reached with the state last summer over taxes and fees, Gilbert's Rock Ohio Caesars will be able to keep the Phase I Horseshoe Casino in the Higbee open even after the Phase II project is complete.
Caesars Entertainment is the world's largest gaming company operating casinos under such names as Caesars, Harrahs, Showboat, Ballys, Rio and Horseshoe. Gilbert said Phase II will likely carry a different name.
"Most likely it will, we're not sure which one, they have several other brands and that's in the early discussions," he said. Even if its two different brands it will still be considered one casino that Horseshoe gamblers will be able to access through Tower City.
"So it's kind of cool. You'll get you know the experience of the Horseshoe and be able to experience that and a few years down the road, you'll be hopefully able to go to the second phase and experience something different."
Rock Ohio Caesars also owns Thistledown Race Track, one of seven in the state allowed to add slots as part of that 2011 agreement with the state.
Rock's President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Cullen said they are still waiting for some legal challenges to the race track slots to be resolved before moving forward.
He acknowledges they are looking into moving the track to the Akron-Canton area, which would lessen the competition for the Horseshoe and the Hard Rock Casino planned for nearby Northfield Park. He said they do not have a site in mind and they still have not entirely ruled out the possibility of staying in North Randall.
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