Casino to open early, on Columbus Day

on Thursday, 19 July 2012.

Oct. 8 kickoff is weeks sooner than expected; workers’ day off likely to boost first-day crowd

The $400 million Hollywood Casino Columbus will open on Oct. 8, which happens to be Columbus Day.

Officials of the casino and the Ohio Casino Control Commission say the sooner-than-expected opening on the holiday is a coincidence, but an appropriate one, and also comes during the year in which the city celebrates its 200th anniversary.

The date was approved at yesterday’s meeting of the casino commission, but it had been under discussion for several days. Commission executive director Matt Schuler and casino general manager Ameet Patel had spoken daily about an opening date

“Finally at 8 p.m. Tuesday night, we decided on the Oct. 8 date,” Schuler said.

A few minutes later, they realized that Oct. 8 is Columbus Day.

“We saw that and were even more excited,” Patel said. He noted that thousands of area workers will have the day off, which can’t help but boost opening-day attendance.

It was previously thought that Hollywood Casino Columbus would open in late October or November.

“A November date had been floated, but construction was ahead of schedule,” Patel said.

The opening time hasn’t been determined.Hollywood Casino Columbus will employ about 2,000. Patel said 150 permanent positions have been filled, and an additional 900 jobs, mostly table-game dealers, have been filled contingent on applicants completing training, passing a drug test and receiving a license from the casino commission.

The casino will speed up hiring in the next few weeks, Patel said, and will fill positions for its food and beverage services, security operations, player services, valet parking and several other areas.

The West Side casino will include about 3,000 slot machines, 100 table games, the Final Cut Steakhouse, Epic Buffet, Take 2 Grill and a sports and entertainment lounge.

Penn National Gaming owns the Columbus casino and Hollywood Casino Toledo, which opened on May 29. About 18,000 people came to gamble on the Toledo casino’s opening day. Patel said he hopes to surpass this figure. “We expect record crowds from day one,” he said.

Casino gambling arrived this year in Ohio with the opening of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland on May 14; the racino at Scioto Downs opened on June 1. The racino is overseen by the Ohio Lottery Commission.

Opening the Cleveland and Toledo casinos first helped make it possible to schedule an earlier-than-expected opening for the Columbus casino.

“That was very helpful, and we gained a lot of experience,” said Jo Ann Davidson, chairwoman of the casino commission. “We learned how prepared we were and how prepared they were, and when Matt (Schuler) told me we were ready, I had complete confidence we would be ready.”

Schuler said a lot of factors determined the recommended opening date, such as the delivery of slot machines and the casino commission’s hiring and training of on-site gaming agents and auditors.

About 1,500 slot machines already have been delivered to Hollywood Casino Columbus.

“It’s been a herculean effort,” Schuler said of opening three casinos in such a short period.

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The Columbus Dispatch Thursday July 19, 2012