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First Ohio Casino Expected to Open By 2012 In Cleveland

The first six months of 2011 have been torture to Ohio residents who have been looking forward to the state's first casino. After approving casino gambling back in 2009, residents have been waiting patiently while the casinos were being constructed.

Earlier this year when new-Governor John Kasich took office, the casino plans took a turn for the worse. Kasich did not think the deal the voters signed off on was fair, so he played hard ball with Penn National Gaming and Rock Gaming. The two companies have the rights to the four casinos in the state.

The two sides squared off in one negotiating session after another, and finally last month, two separate deals were brokered. The gaming companies would lose some exclusivity, but they gained a political ally in Kasich. Before the deal was struck, Rock Gaming shut down its construction of the Cincinnati casino.

That delay, coupled with Rock's decision to keep moving on the Cleveland casino, ensured that the Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland would become the first gaming facility to open in Ohio. The Horseshoe is estimated to open in 2012.

The other three casinos, in Toledo, Columbus, and Cincinnati, will not be open until 2013 at the earliest. That will give the Horseshoe some time to become a favorite of gamblers before their competition opens their doors.

As for the negotiated deal with the governor, the agreement means that the gaming companies will have a complete understanding of what they will be paying to the state, and exactly what type of competition they will see from racinos in Ohio.

"It helps us a lot to have this clarity," said Rock Ohio Caesars Attorney Dan Reinhar, as reported by Cleveland Live. What the casinos did not want to see was slot machines at bars throughout Ohio, and the deal negotiated will prevent slots anywhere in the state except for the four casinos and seven racino locations.

The casinos, of course, will have access to house many more slot machines than the racinos. Each casino will be permitted to operate 5,000 slot machines. The total investment for each casino will be equal to at least $350 million. The tracks will be allowed to apply for a slot license within the next year.

Rock Gaming is owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. The Cavs owner has been reeling since LeBron James left his home state of Ohio in favor of South Florida. Gilbert's reach, however, goes much deeper than just the Cavaliers, as evidenced by his majority stake in Rock gaming.

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