Penn National gets operator’s license for Columbus Hollywood Casino

on Wednesday, 12 September 2012.

October opening on schedule

Penn National Gaming Inc. took a major step Wednesday in its efforts to open its Columbus casino Oct. 8, securing an operator’s license for the facility from state regulators.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission unanimously approved the license for Central Ohio Gaming Ventures LLC,. a Penn National subsidiary. The vote was another milestone in a process that began three years ago when Ohio voters approved casino gambling in the state.

“There’s been some pain, some fun and challenges,” Ameet Patel, the casino’s vice president and general manager, told the commission. “There is some real excitement and momentum in the building.”

He said Penn National (NASDAQ:PENN) is comfortable the $400 million facility will be ready for what the commission calls a controlled demonstration of all casino operations. It will run from 9 a.m. to midnight on Oct. 3 with up to 10,000 guests to be invited to play the casino’s slot machines, bet on table games and eat at its three restaurants and sports bar.

The commission approved the charities that will receive the proceeds from the controlled demonstration – after the mandated 33 percent tax on gross casino revenue is collected. The charities, selected by Penn National because of their involvement on the west side, are Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Salvation Army, Hilltop YMCA, Greater Hilltop Area Shalom Zone and the West Broad Street center of Buckeye Ranch.

Patel said the facility’s “Hollywood Casino” signs recently were installed at the front entrance to building along with a media wall promoting the facility’s Oct. 8 opening. Construction continues on the casino’s 2,021-space parking garage along with work inside the building off Georgesville Road on Columbus west side.

He also provided the Casino Control Commission with updated numbers on the 120,000-square-foot gaming floor, saying it will have 3,014 slot machines, 78 table game and 30 poker tables.

On the employment front, Patel reported nearly 30 percent of the employees hired so far are members of ethnic minorities. In addition, an estimated 60 percent of the $241 million spent on the casino has gone to women- and minority-owned businesses. The casino has also purchased goods and service from 148 vendors, including 17 that Penn listed as “diversity-based.”

The casino will have 2,000 employees when it opens. It has received applications from 54,000 job candidates, Patel said.

Jeff Bell covers public policy, utilities, energy and the business of sports for Business First.

Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012