The reviews for the newest Hollywood venture are in and positive.
|A view of a section of slot machines at the newly opened Hollywood Casino in Rossford. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Penn National's Hollywood Casino Toledo opened its doors to the general public Tuesday. While the official opening time was 2 p.m., the public began trickling in shortly after noon. By 1 p.m. hundreds were lined up inside to get the cards needed to operate the video machines. Those who started coming through were impressed.
None more so than Ed Tucholski, of Rossford. As an avid gambler, Tucholski has been a trip leader for senior citizens for many years. In that capacity, he has visited the Greektown casino in Detroit, those further north in Michigan and across the country including Las Vegas.
"First class," he said of the new casino next door to his hometown. "Top of the line, believe me."
Tucholski attended the casino's ribbon-cutting and got a chance to try out its gaming possibilities during a charity event last week.
The retired English teacher and former clerk of city council praised the organization of the new casino. The aisles, he noted, are wide and the machines are jammed together.
This will make it easier for those in wheelchairs and using walkers to maneuver over the floor. That floor includes "so many machines I've never played before," he said. "I've got a lot to check out."
Tucholski expects the casino to be a hit with others. "It'll draw a lot of people from an 80-mile radius."
That's just what Penn National officials hope. Eric Schippers, senior vice president for the company, said Tuesday that usually a new casino expects to draw customers from as far away as 90 miles. But with all the high tech amenities in the Hollywood Toledo, "we expect to draw from a lot farther."
The casino provides a rush for the senses. A band playing on a stage near the sports bar blasted out classic rock hits. Elsewhere swing rules, supercharged by the high limit area, and softer in the steak and seafood restaurant.
The gamblers are bathed in the light from the machines. Those machines summon a potpourri of mythic images - Alice in Wonderland, Batman and the Joker, Thundering Buffalo, wizards and warriors, mermaids and knights.
|Keith Miner (left) of Maumee and Wayne Benner (right) of Newark, chat during a poker game at the newly opened Hollywood Casino in
|Brian Comiskey, a server at Final Cut Steakhouse in the newly opened Hollywood Casino, checks tables between lunch and dinner.
Roberta Harris, an artist from Flat Rock, Mich., was particularly attentive to the casino's color scheme. She was dancing to "Play That Funky Music," before stopping to talk about how the walls are painted in warm, soothing tones, but the carpet that picks up the art deco feel of the decor are rich and vibrant.
She likes to gamble and she likes to dance, so she expects to come back.
It didn't take Ron and Cathy Raymond, of La Salle, Mich., to size up the place.
"It's open and roomy," Cathy Raymond said.
They'd been to another Hollywood casino in Indiana, and so they were eager to check out the Toledo offering. "It's even better" than the one they'd visited before, they said.
Robert Sherley, of Toledo, said having the casino so close "beats running all the way to Detroit."
He like the video displays hung along the ceiling flashing sports news and movie trailers.
Carlotta Williamson-Brown, of Toledo, said other casino are "so packed, so jammed," but this one felt open. "It's beautiful."
"They've done things right," said State Rep. Randy Gardner, of Bowling Green. He admitted he wasn't a fan of gambling, and had voted against pro-gambling proposals.
But once people voted in favor of bringing gambling to the state, the company has been willing to work with the community, including Rossford, to iron out concerns.
"Everyone I've talked to believes that happened," Gardner said.
This is the second of the four proposed casinos to open. Schippers said there wasn't a race to open first. The company instead focused on fulfilling what it said it would do during the campaign to pass the constitutional amendment that allowed the opening of the casinos here and in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.
That includes hiring more than 95 percent of the workers from the region, he said.
Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown said he was "hopeful" the casino would help the community. It's already resulted in hiring of a number of local residents.
Still the windfall of revenues to counties promised by the campaign will be more than offset by the cuts in state funding.
The casino poses a particular promise and challenge to Rossford. It is perched on the edge of the city's downtown, yet it doesn't get the home city benefits that accrue to Toledo.
Still the city has provided grants to Rossford.
Mayor Neil MacKinnon said that he's hopeful that new business will benefit the city. In his years in construction and contracting, his clients have taught him "Everything is driven by traffic."
With more people traveling through downtown Rossford, the greater chance for development in the area. He noted that there's just 3.2 miles between the casino, which anticipates attracting about five million visitors annually, and Bass Pro, which attracts a couple million annually. "We have to figure out how to do the connectivity."
Councilwoman Caroline Eckel said she was "very impressed" by the casino. She's optimistic that in will bring some people into town, though she expects "the first couple months will be crazy."
That was evident Tuesday early afternoon as cars lined up along Miami Street from the I-75 exit, waiting to get their first taste of this new Hollywood.