When you consider the state of Ohio didn’t see its first legally licensed and regulated casino open until May 29, 2012, it’s rather amazing to comprehend that there are now 11 fully operational commercial casinos and racinos functioning around the state. 2014 saw the grand opening of Ohio’s last three racinos, where patrons can bet on the ponies and play their favorite fast-paced slots to their bankroll’s content.
Ohio first legalized casinos and racinos with passage of the Ohio Casino Amendment in 2009, following in the footsteps of neighboring Pennsylvania, which legalized slots facilities in 2004 and launched its first racino, Wilkes-Barre’s Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, in November of 2006. Having watched the adjacent Keystone State generate millions of dollars from what’s now grown to a dozen gambling destinations, Ohio wasted little time in granting licenses and erecting 11 casinos and racinos of its own.
The last 3 of 7 racinos were completed this year, opening their doors to the public with a full regime of gambling opportunities in May, August and September respectively.
The Belterra Park Gaming and Entertainment Center in Anderson Township was the first race track to open a casino on May 1, 2014. Formerly known as River Downs, the new racino provides 1,600 slots for travelers and locals of Hamilton County.
Next was Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, known in its racing-only days as Raceway Park. The Dayton racino opened on August 28, 2014, providing a slightly smaller gaming floor than Belterra with 1,000 slots installed in the Montgomery County location.
Then on September 17, 2014, Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course cut the ribbon to its gaming floor, granting access to the new racino in Austintown. A relocation of the former Beulah Park, the new casino in Mahoning County offers 850 slots of all themes and denominations.
Not everyone is particularly enthusiastic about the number of racinos now dotting the map of Ohio. Owners of the four stand-alone commercial casinos operating in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo were not expecting to have so much competition when they first signed on, forking over a minimum of $250 million in licensing and investment fees.
It wasn’t until 2011 – two years after the commercial casino licenses were granted – that Ohio Governor John Kasich passed a bill allowing slots to be integrated at existing race tracks around the state. Since then, all 7 racinos have expanded their facilities to include anywhere from 850 to 2,500 slot machines. Operators of those four stand-alone casinos in Ohio, all of which opened between May 2012 and March 2013, are now concerned about the effect nearby rivalries will have on their bottom line.
With revenue already down this year, Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland faces competition from two nearby racinos, the Hard Rock Rocksville and ThistleDowns Racino. The Hollywood Casino in Columbus must compete with Scioto Downs Racino, less than 12 miles to the southeast. The state’s commercial casinos are already planning a measure in 2015 to examine the effects of competition from Ohio’s slots bearing racinos.