New Toledo casino progressing, will be ready to open as soon as regulators give the OK

TOLEDO, Ohio - On the banks of the Maumee River in Toledo sits Penn National's new Hollywood Casino. Inside workers are laying carpet, polishing tile and getting the place ready for the $300 million casino's opening this spring.

The Hollywood will feature a 1930s art deco decor in keeping with a Hollywood feel, but with very modern amenities.

"There's been a $10 million investment at this property just in digital media," said Hollywood Vice President of Marketing Jason Birney. 

"As you enter from the parking garage, your first impact is a long winding digital media board that will display messages, that will display old Hollywood trailers and some marketing messaging along that Hollywood theme."

"We really focused on that wow factor," he said. That extends to the Skybox, a 173-seat sports bar in the center of the casino that will feature floor-to-ceiling glass walls upon which sporting events will be projected in high definition. "It's really the latest in technology."

In addition to the Skybox, there will be a 260-seat buffet, an 80-seat entertainment lounge and the Take 2 Grill, which is a 40-seat, grab-and-go type place featuring light fare.

And that's what makes Toledo's Hollywood different from Cleveland's Horseshoe, it is an island unto itself, concentrated inward. While Cleveland will have a buffet, food court and bar, their goal is for gamblers to head out to the many downtown bars and restaurants.

In addition, the first floor Higbee windows won't be blacked over to keep the daylight out, but will feature curtains just thick enough to let those passing by to see the action inside, but not be able to make out faces. The Hollywood is for the most part windowless with the exception of a wall of eight windows in the Final Cut Steakhouse looking out on the Maumee River.

Hollywood executives said they're offering an alternative to what people might find in Cleveland or Detroit.

"Where consumers choose to go is primarily determined by where they live," said Casino General Manager Richard St. Jean. "However many people are going to want to come further to see the casino for the first time.

"If you're providing a better experience, you have regions that are jump balls if you will they're obviously going to choose one over the other if they feel they're getting a better experience and they're more comfortable," he said.

The Hollywood is on a pace to open mid-March, pending approval from the Ohio Casino Control Commission on a license.  It's a process that the state's gaming consultant recommended be delayed for up to eight weeks to allow inspectors to wade through the backlog of background checks needed for casino work.

"Obviously, we'd like it to be sooner than later," said St. Jean, who says they are working with the commission and understands why this is a process that can't be rushed.

While Cleveland was slated to open ahead of Toledo in some of the early reports to the commission, St. Jean says that will be up to the folks in Columbus. 

"The opening's really going to be determined by the Ohio gaming commission and when they issue the first license so I guess at the end of the day it's going to be a matter of whose further along when they're prepared to do their, when they're prepared to start issuing licenses," said St. Jean.

The tale of the tape on the two properties goes like this: Hollywood will feature 2,000 slots compared to Horseshoes' 2,011. There will be 60 live tables in Toledo for blackjack, roulette, craps etc. compared to 63 in Cleveland and when it comes to poker, Hollywood will have 20 live tables while Cleveland will feature 30 in it's World Series of Poker room.

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