The peach-colored building sits on 44 acres along the Maumee River. Inside, the carpeting has a large pattern in red, blue, gold and black. Video trees and a serpentine video wall flash portraits of film stars, movie posters and film clips. Women in black mini-dresses make their way across the floor as other black-clad workers deal cards and pass out chips.
This "mock casino" was in progress Monday in preparation for the opening of Toledo's new Hollywood Casino next week. Members of the media got a preview of the $320 million Penn National facility as hundreds of employees went through training and orientation on the casino floor. Although some of the 2002 electronic machines are not yet operational, and work crews are still adding finishing touches, the 125,000 square feet of gambling options is nearly complete.
General manager Richard St. Jean welcomed media representatives and introduced some of his staff, including Brent Burkhardt, executive vice president and managing director; Brian Hopkins, slot operations manager; and Neal Perry, director of table games. They guided visitors in a circular pattern around the floor.
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Employees try out a table game.
Looking much like a bank, Players Services is the place to go for chips and to cash in winnings. Rows of machines beckoned players with bright lights, sound effects and promises of winning combinations. The machines take everything from a penny to $5. Those playing at the 60 table games and 20 live poker tables can swipe a credit card at the table. The blackjack area includes a high-limit section.
Dealers were practicing their craft with other employees.
"The minimum starts out here at $50 and goes up to about $2,000. ... in the business, we refer to it as 'play to a face,' so if somebody wants to bet a little bit more, and we have an established relationship with them, we'll give them different limits than what we offer to the public," Hopkins said.
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Another area includes game machines with specific movie themes. Hopkins said the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" game is exclusive to Toledo. Anyone who wins at a machine receives a ticket with a bar code. The ticket can be used for play at other machines or cashed in at Players Services.
"Changes take place frequently. The technology improves, just like your computer. ... as soon as new technology comes out, we can upgrade the machines," Hopkins said.
About 900 unobtrusive cameras dot the ceilings to record footage in every area. The art deco motif that simulates the glamour of the 1930s is a contrast to the modern technology that permeates the facility. Entertainment programming and sports events are projected on numerous screens and glass
"One thing for sure, in this casino, you'll never miss a sporting event or highlights of anything. ... We have over 220
TVs in the whole casino," Perry said.
The Hollywood theme is carried out in the Rodeo Drive Gift Shop and in the names of the restaurants, which include Epic Buffet, H Lounge and The Final Cut, with its specialty steaks, seafood and beverages. The Take 2 Grill is to be open around the clock. The Scene Sports Bar features a lighted bar top, leather seating for 173 people, and 24 draft beers on tap.
"This is going to feature all your typical sports bar-type items but a little nicer - wings, burgers, flatbread pizzas that are hand-tossed, some steaks ..." Hopkins said.
Adjacent to The Scene is the entertainment stage. Located in the center of the casino floor, it is to host live entertainment seven nights a week. The gaming areas are arranged in a horseshoe around the stage and close to the parking garage entrance. Guests can be dropped off at the front entrance and have a valet park their vehicles. A lounge area is located inside the front door, behind the stage.
"We believe that 85 percent of our customers are going to use self-park and come in through the parking garage, rather than use the valet," Perry said.
Admission to the casino is free, so non-gamblers can go there to hear live music, have a drink and watch people in a luxurious, smoke-free facility. The 2,450 spaces in the parking garage enable guests to remain out of the weather. Those who want to stroll outdoors will have a scenic view of the Maumee River.
The casino already has put more than 1,300 people to work in the facility, not counting the 2,100 construction jobs. The majority of the workers are residents of the Toledo area.
Nearly 3 million people are expected to patronize the casino each year, bringing income to other businesses in the area and tax dollars to the city of Toledo and Lucas County.
Eventually, schools all over the state are to receive funds from the casino.
Getting to Hollywood Casino is easy. Take I-75 north from Findlay and stay on until Exit 199. Turn left onto Miami Street and then right into the casino.