The Hollywood Casino Toledo will be ‘absolutely’ the first to open in the state as other cities wrangle with red tape and other issues tie up things in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Officials plan to open the venue by April, 2012.
The executive team for Toledo’s premier casino should be in place by the end of July and the hiring of an estimated 1,200 employees will follow late this year, the new general manager of Hollywood Casino Toledo said Monday.
Richard St. Jean told reporters during his first day on the job that Hollywood Casino Toledo officials are committed to bringing both jobs and money to the city’s struggling economy and would begin ramping up a hiring initiative in the fourth quarter of this year. Penn National has been in discussions with Owens Community College about creating job-development programs to train workers for the various casino jobs, including table-game workers.
“It is something very new to the area here, so it’s going to be an exciting opportunity,” Michael Bankey, vice president for work force and community services at Owens, said.
The $300 million gambling and entertainment venue will “absolutely” be the first casino to open in the state, Mr. St. Jean said. As construction nears the halfway point along Miami Street, Richard St. Jean said Penn National is committed to being in business by the second quarter of 2012. The firm is shooting for April.
Mr. St. Jean was named general manager by Penn National in mid-May. He met briefly with reporters to give an update on the casino, which is expected to house about 2,000 slot machines, 60 table games, and a 20-table poker room, in addition to several restaurants.
Richard St. Jean, Hollywood Casino Toledo general manager, says, ‘First to market is always a great story.’ It will be a standard of what guests should expect, he said.
“I think it’s going to set the standard for what guests can expect,” he said as construction lifts and cranes worked behind him. “First to market is always a great story.”
When Rock Gaming officials announced construction plans in February for Cleveland’s Caesars Horseshoe casino, they told the city theirs would be the first in Ohio, opening in early 2012. But with state tax questions swirling, Rock Gaming suspended construction in early May on both the Cleveland and Cincinnati locations.
Construction continues at Penn National’s Columbus casino, though work there is several months behind Toledo. There, Penn National has been mired in lawsuits and an annexation fight with the city, though Penn National spokesman Bob Tenenbaum said the plan always has been to open that casino in late 2012.
Mr. Bankey said Owens is waiting to see what Penn National’s specific needs will be, though it’s likely the college will be able to tweak its training programs to fit Penn National’s needs.
In other cases, Owens has been trying to learn from other colleges around the country that have developed training program for casino workers.
“They basically will create in essence a minicasino where they’ll bring students in and go through this training, and it’s very common. You basically go and audition and run the table for them and determine whether you meet their needs,” Mr. Bankey said.
Construction of the casino along Miami Street in East Toledo is nearing the halfway point. It is expected to have about 2,000 slot machines, 60 game tables, a 20-table poker room, and several restaurants.
Right now, Mr. St. Jean is assembling his senior management executive team, which will include about 10 people. Mr. Tenenbaum said the firm is looking to secure temporary office space for Mr. St. Jean near the project, perhaps in Rossford, the city in which the site borders.
In his comments, Mr. St. Jean reiterated Penn National’s promise to work with Toledo’s downtown businesses. “The commitment is to funnel as much money as we can back into the local economy, so if we’re spending on behalf of our casino guests, we want to do it right downtown, whether it’s concerts, special events. You name it; we want to be a part of it, we’d like to be a sponsor to those events,” he said. “We want to have a very, very strong presence in downtown Toledo when this place is open.”
Destination Toledo President Rich Nachazel, who also met with Mr. St. Jean Monday, said Penn National has made good on its promises. The company has helped the city land a 2013 trade show for motor-coach tour companies and is also planning to provide free shuttles to and from downtown, Mr. Nachazel said.
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