CLEVELAND - In a much anticipated announcement, Rock Ohio Caesars on Thursday announced their intention to build a Phase I casino in the historic Higbee Building on Public Square.
The $350 million casino will operate under Caesars Entertainment Corporation's Horseshoe brand and will be called Horseshoe Casino Cleveland.
"It's one of the defining brands of the gambling industry," said Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman. "It's built around this notion of doing right for the gambler, making the experience intimate, making it exhilerating," he said.
The announcement comes just days after Rock Ohio Caesars closed on a 16-acre site across from Tower City Center for $85 million, where the main casino, Phase II, will be built.
"It's a very challenging site and it's going to take time," said Rock Gaming CEO Dan Gilbert. That's why they began looking at Higbees as an option to at least get the ball rolling and money flowing into downtown, which the Cavs owner promises the project will do.
"We want to promote two-way traffic, not just people coming into the casino with a big hug kind of like stay here don't go anywhere," Gilbert said.
Mayor Frank Jackson said the Higbees site will be the key element in turning Cleveland into a 24-hour town.
Loveman says Caesars has had it's eye on the Cleveland market for years and jumped at the opportunity to partner with Rock Gaming. He says Cleveland should be even more excited.
"When it's finished there will be everyday thousands of people visiting this building coming to the casino, coming to the restaurants in the neighborhood, coming to shop, coming to park, coming to do banking, to do all sorts of things," Loveman said.
Phase I will take up 300,000 square feet on the first four floors of the Higbees Building and contain 2,100 slots, as well as 65 table games, a high limit area and a World Series of Poker room with 25 tables.
You won't find the wide range of restaurants, often found in most casinos, in an effort to increase foot traffic to and from the restaurants nearby.
There will be a food court as well as an international buffet restaurant, there will also be a bar on the main floor.
It will create close to 2,000 construction jobs during the building process as well as 1,600 people once it is open sometime in early 2012. The companies have committed to hire 90 percent of casino employees from the Cleveland metropolitan area.
The casino expects to see around five million visitors a year many of them among the 45 million people worldwide who already are Caesars Total Reward customers.
"We will be asking our customers from all around the United States to come and see us here in Cleveland," said Loveman.
"Half of our revenues, $8 billion of revenues, come from customers who live in one place and see us locally but are visiting us in another location," he said.
Rock Ohio Caesars also named Marcus Glover as the casino's general manager. Glover comes to Cleveland from Harrah's St. Louis where he served as assistant general manager and vice president of operations.