NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Gambling operations are not exactly known for their breathtaking vistas. They are, for the most part, vast windowless rooms of flashing lights and loud carpets that are essentially cut off from the outside world.
The Horseshoe Casino Cleveland changed that model slightly with their decision not to block off the massive windows of the former Higbee's Department Store, but rather hang gold curtains sheer enough to let light in during the day while at night giving outside passers by a hint of the action inside.
ThistleDown Racino has boldly gone, if only in a small way, where few have gone before, opening to the public last weekend an outside patio, bar and gaming area.
Filled with a variety of around 30 VLTs, the outside gambling area sits literally right off the horse racing tracks winner's circle. The bank of machines faces in from the track, enabling players to keep one eye on their game and the other on the latest race just yards away.
More enticing than the view for many gamblers will be the ability to do what they can do nowhere else in Ohio: play a slot machine and smoke. Because it's an outdoor, open-air patio, players are allowed to smoke while playing. They can't do that at the state's other racino or four casinos.
The smoking ban is state mandated and not up to the casinos. While gambling surrounds Ohio, casinos in Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia and Indiana all allow smoking.
In New Jersey, only Atlantic City's Revel Casino was smoke-free until earlier this month when faced with revenues well below expectations. The $2 billion-casino that opened last year joined the city's other 11 casinos in allowing smoking on a portion of the gaming floor.
Northeast Ohio weather being what it is, the ThistleDown patio includes heaters along with a full service bar with televisions.
The Hard Rock Rocksino under construction in Northfield will have outdoor smoking patios for their customers, but early plans made no mention of outdoor gambling.