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Visitors to casino face array of choices

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    The Hollywood Casino in Toledo is scheduled to open on May 29.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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The Hollywood Casino in Toledo is scheduled to open on May 29.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

When the elevator door opens and you enter the gaming floor of Hollywood Casino Toledo, expect to find yourself in the immediate throes of sensory overload.

You'll try to decide which direction to go in or which game to play. You might be hungry, or you might be thirsty. You might be overwhelmed by the ornate, multi-colored carpeting, the pings and whirs of the 2,002 slot machines or the thousands of playing cards moving across the felt of the casino floor's 80 gaming tables.

They're all tempting pieces of a puzzle in an environment that's designed to evoke a golden-era, Art Deco Hollywood motif.

Instead, take a deep breath to gather your bearings before going any further, and focus on your expectations as a customer.

"There's going to be a lot of excitement and energy to the property," said Brian Hopkins, the slots manager at Hollywood Casino Toledo. "We don't want people just to go to the table games or to the slots only. We want them to take in the whole experience."

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When the casino opens its doors on May 29, casino officials anticipate the facility to be at its full capacity of 10,000 people during the course of the day.

Some will be there simply to gawk. Some will be seasoned gamblers. Others will be first-time casino visitors, as Toledo is now part of a movement that has been taking over the nation for more than 20 years — the casino boom.

According to the American Gaming Association, there are casinos in 39 of the 50 states, including 23 states with commercial casinos. Only Utah and Hawaii do not have any form of legal gambling.

In fact, Holly Wetzel, vice president of communications for the American Gaming Association, explained in an email that with the continued growth of casinos there is no such thing as a "nontraditional gaming market" anymore.



Likewise, the notion that there's a certain taboo surrounding legalized gambling is being dispelled.

"There's a shift in the thinking of U.S. citizens," said John Stone, the owner and managing partner of CDC Consulting. "Gaming is no longer a sin. It's part of the American culture and entertainment. It loses the panache of having a dirty feel to it. State governments are doing everything they can to make casinos appear as benign as possible."

Hollywood Casino Toledo officials couldn't put an exact number on how many first-time visitors they anticipate during the course of opening week.

But Mr. Stone, whose Las Vegas-based firm specializes in analyzing casino rewards programs and player retention, said the largest portion of casino visitors are those who seek short-term enjoyment, and they are the guests that casinos hope to bring back to their establishments. That comes in the form of offering customer rewards, so before you reach for your wallet, head toward the players' service counter to sign up for a casino rewards card.

In casino rewards programs, visitors and players accrue points, contingent upon the amount of money they spend on casino games.

Hollywood Casino Toledo will offer a "Marquee Rewards" program that offers retail and dining rewards at its Toledo and Lawrenceburg, Ind., casino locations for points accrued through slot and table-game play.

But to earn perks, it's necessary to play.

Mr. Stone said the bulk of visitors to Hollywood Casino Toledo most likely won't be hard-core gamblers, but the infrequent visitors who have a curiosity not only in the newness of the casino itself but also who rarely play casino games — or who may never have played casino games.

Slot machines, Mr. Hopkins said, provide a visitor a better comfort level for betting, as the wagers are smaller (starting at a penny and going as high as $100) and the principle of slots is simple — lining up matching symbols on a payout line.

Table games including blackjack, roulette, mini-baccarat, and a Big Six wheel will be offered, as well as six different poker variations and a 20-table poker room. Table minimums begin at $5, and increase or decrease based on the time of day, the number of players at each table, and the traffic flow. There will be an eight-table high limit area that will include seven blackjack tables and one mini-baccarat table. The minimum bet there will be $50 and maximum $2,000.

"We'll be competitive with the Detroit market, as far as table minimums and maximums," said Neal Perry, director of table games at Hollywood Casino Toledo. "It's based on the principle of supply and demand. If there's a full table of players, chances are, the minimum bet will be higher."

Yet a visitor may not be familiar with the rules of a staple game such as blackjack in which the player aims to draw a hand of cards that's as close to or at 21 without going over, in an attempt to beat the dealer's hand, or of a more complicated game such as craps, in which a bettor places a wager on different sections of a felt table on the outcome of the roll of a pair of dice. Blackjack and craps have the strongest odds in favor of the player, and the house has no predominant edge.

"If a visitor has any questions, feel free to ask a dealer or a supervisor," Mr. Perry said. "Don't be intimidated, even to ask. A person should expect a comfortable playing environment, friendliness, some excitement, and not to be intimidated."

But Mr. Stone also offers this advice, one that doesn't just lend itself to the gaming experience but also to the casino experience.

"Know your limits," he said.

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade

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