TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - After years of anticipation and planning, Hollywood Casino Toledo officially opened its doors to the public around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at the casino just before the opening. It was another historic moment for the Glass City, much like the first event held at the Huntington Center, first pitch thrown at Fifth Third Field, or the first Jeep rolling off the production line at the new Jeep assembly plant. This is another banner day for Toledo as the ribbon-cutting ceremony gave way to the casino being opened for business.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was given the ceremonial pair of scissors to help cut the ribbon on opening day at Hollywood Casino.
"I think this place is unbelievable. Penn National, they really came through like champs here. The biggest issue is the gain for northwest Ohio the city of Toledo, in terms of economic growth and development," said Bell.
Coming home to be the Master of Ceremony was Toledo's own Jamie Farr.
Farr said the new casino is first-class and something Toledoans should be extremely proud of.
"Toledo is a great city. It's just that people have to recognize it. Sometimes they're very pessimistic and they're very negative and cynical about themselves," said Farr. "You can't do that. This is a great city with great people, and you gotta think with a positive attitude."
Farr is very impressed by the casino and hopes the city will be too.
"I am really taken by it. It's just amazing. As I said, I've been to a lot of casinos, especially in Las Vegas, and this really knocks my socks off," said Farr.
For Farr, the casino's Hollywood theme takes him down memory lane.
"When I was at MGM, and I look at some of these photographs, look around, I was at Warner Brothers when Jack L. Warner was there, and Harry Cohen at Columbia, Darryl at Fox. It was very exciting times," recalled Farr.
At the morning ceremony, two $50,000 checks were presented. One was given to the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo. The other was given to the local YMCA chapter. The money was raised from the casino's soft open event.
Why keep people outside waiting when they could be inside having a good time? That was the idea behind opening the doors a couple of hours earlier than expected. For those who showed up early, it was an opening day bonus.
Helping to provide that red carpet star quality treatment are 1,300 full and part-time employees.
"Over 40,000 applicants and for a lot of these positions we hired on personality, who wants to work, who wants to be polite who wants people to have fun," explained Jason Birney with the casino's marketing department.
It is a $320 million development deal and casino management hopes everyone in the area will take the time to stop in and take a look around.
"We all travel out to Vegas for our jobs. We know how we compare. People need to understand this isn't a rinky-dink joint on the Maumee River, this thing is top notch. It can compete against the best of them, not only in Detroit, but in this country," said Birney.
For Toledo's mayor, it is a chance to prove the words "first class" and "Toledo" go together.
"It helps establish ourselves as a destination point, which is crucial to be able to turn our economic development around. So I'm very excited," said Bell.
Casino officials expect at least 10,000 visitors at the grand opening.
Visitors will finally be able to see the casino that got rave reviews at the invitation-only soft opening last Thursday. It features many games, as well as food.
"We have a variety of tables. We have 33 blackjack tables in total, 8 craps, 6 roulette, 3 mini baccarat, 2 Pai Gow poker," said Neal Perry, casino table games director.
Food can be enjoyed in several ways. There is a large buffet that includes pizza and desserts, a sports grill, and the Final Cut steak restaurant.
Visitors have to be 21 years old to enter the casino floor, and Ohio's indoor smoking ban in public places prohibits smoking while playing. Casino officials think that gives them an advantage.
"Here, it's not going to be smoking, there has never been smoking, so just the freshness, that air quality, the ability for us to circulate that air. It's just a complete difference," said Assistant General Manager Mike Galle.
There are designated outdoor patios where guests can take a break and light up.
There are also handicap accessible entrances to Hollywood Casino: the valet entrance facing Interstate 75, and the parking garage.
There are 2,400 free spots in the garage, leaving more money in your pocket to take a spin at the big bucks.
Besides helping to attract more visitors to Toledo, the mayor said the casino will help create plenty of spin-off business opportunities.
"To think one venue will take everything from everybody else is ridiculous. I've seen what could happen inside our city on weekends when we got Mud Hens going and we've got a concert at Huntington Center. All our restaurants are full downtown. I think there's more pie to go around," said Bell.