When Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opened downtown in May 2012, the local community was ready to cash in on the influx of visitors and dollars. This was the first casino in Ohio, and it had 96,000 square feet of gaming space in the Historic Higbee Building on Public Square, with a second phase that would add retail space and restaurants overlooking the Cuyahoga River.
In addition to the new energy Horseshoe Cleveland generated downtown, it also brought the promise of 5 million annual visitors—a potential jackpot for area hotels. “When we began developing the casino, occupancy in downtown Cleveland was below 60 percent,” says Marcus Glover, general manager of the Horseshoe Cleveland and senior vice president at Caesars Entertainment Corp. (The casino is co-owned by Caesars Entertainment and Rock Gaming.) “As part of our urban casino vision, we partnered with local hotels and restaurants to help positively impact our neighboring businesses.”
Horseshoe Cleveland worked with three area hotels—the Ritz Carlton, Cleveland; Renaissance Cleveland Hotel; and Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center—to provide casino guests with easy-access lodging. “Our casino guests are the true benefactors of the casino-hotel relationship,” Glover says. “They are able to book a room directly through our website and know that they are staying in a top-notch hotel close to the casino.” The Ritz and the Renaissance are physically connected to the casino via an indoor walkway.
Of course, hotels that partner with commercial gaming operations can be winners, as well. A commercial casino can be a highly valuable partner to a property, expanding its customer base, providing new marketing opportunities, and, ultimately, increasing the revenue stream. And with the gaming trend on the upswing, more hotel owners and developers are rolling the dice on these relationships.
In 1976, only Nevada and New Jersey allowed commercial gaming in their state, but that number soon grew when other states began to see casinos as a wellspring of revenue. Today, 23 states allow commercial gaming, including New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maryland, with Ohio the most recent to join their ranks. And those states have largely seen positive results. Consumer spending at commercial casinos climbed almost 5 percent nationally in 2012 to $37.34 billion, with $8.6 billion in direct gaming tax contributions returned to states and local communities.
According to Holly Wetzel, vice president of communications for the American Gambling Association, “Cleveland is a good example of a casino coming into a downtown and partnering with other businesses and restaurants in the local area, bolstering the whole area. That’s a trend when casinos come into more urban areas,” she says.