Public officials and community leaders joined Penn National Gaming, Inc. Thursday for the groundbreaking of the $250 million Hollywood Casino-Toledo to open in the first half of 2012.
Local news anchor Jerry Anderson, who emceed the ceremony, called the event a “historic and wonderful occasion for Toledo, Rossford, Wood County, and the region.”
“There are those watershed moments that change a community and its landscape physically, and I think we are at one of those moments,” Anderson said.
The broadcaster then began introducing a wide range of local and state public officials. Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was first in line.
“In our city, a lot of people here underestimate what we can do,” Bell said. “It’s very easy for people to be critical of good things. I found out as mayor we have to change the culture of how we do things here. I think we can do that.
“What we have to do is bring it together, because if we don’t fix the ship here we are all going to sink. Penn National has given us a lifeboat here,” Bell continued.
The 290,000 square foot casino will be constructed with structured parking on a 44-acre site in East Toledo on the banks of the Maumee River opposite downtown Toledo.
The casino’s art deco architectural design will be visible from Interstate 75, and the casino can be reached via the Miami Street exit. The gambling complex will be adjacent to the Libbey-Owens-Ford/Pilkington industrial complex at the Toledo-Rossford border.
The casino project is expected to create 2,100 new jobs during construction and employ 1,200 once it opens — with at least 90 percent of the permanent jobs designated for residents of the Toledo metropolitan area, says a press release.
A projected $25.3 million in annual tax revenue is expected to be generated for the City of Toledo, Lucas County and the county’s school districts once all four of Ohio’s authorized casinos are open. The State of Ohio will receive a $50 million license fee dedicated to workforce development programs, bringing Penn Nationals’ investment in the project to $300 million.
Pete Gerken, president of the Lucas County Board of Commissioners, said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be at several distinct groundbreakings over the past decade, and every one of them, as Jerry said, changed the fabric of the City of Toledo. I believe this is one of them. This is a game-changer.”
Gerken cited previous groundbreakings for the new Jeep plant in West Toledo, for Fifth Third Field, and for the new downtown arena, Huntington Center, as other important groundbreaking ceremonies in Toledo he’s attended.
“This is probably the third-most important groundbreaking that we’ve ever had in our city and we owe it all to the voters,” Gerken continued.
Construction of the casino in Toledo was authorized by Ohio voters in November, 2009, when they approved State Issue 3. The constitutional amendment authorizes four casinos in the state which are expected to create a total of 34,000 jobs and produce $643 million a year in tax revenues for the state, all 88 counties, Ohio’s eight largest cities and every school district in the state. Toledo’s casino is the first of the four to hold its groundbreaking ceremony.
“Since then (the election) a lot has changed,” Tim Wilmott, President and COO of Penn National, “I have never in all my years in this business seen as much support as we’ve had from this community.
“This is really the first day, if you listen very, very carefully, you can hear that sucking sound of the businesses coming back to Toledo,” Wilmott continued, citing casinos currently operating in Michigan and other states.
After speaking, Wilmott presented Mayor Bell with a check for $1 million to pay back money the city invested in infrastructure costs at the site.
“During this whole process there have been so many doubters,” Mayor Bell said after accepting the check. “So many have pushed us backwards.”
Hollywood Casino-Toledo will open with approximately 2,000 slot machines, 60 table games, a poker room with 20 tables, structured and surface parking and food and beverage amenities including an Epic Buffet, and an entertainment lounge.
“All of us at Penn National are grateful to our local officials, community leaders, and friends in the business community here in Toledo and Rossford for the cooperation that has led to this historic day,” said Wilmott.
“This formal groundbreaking is just the beginning of a process that will lead up to the grand opening of Hollywood Casino-Toledo less than two years from now. But more than that, it is the beginning of what we foresee as a new era of economic development for the Toledo area,” Wilmott continued.
“The jobs and business opportunities we’ll be creating here, the tax revenues that will begin flowing, and the boost the facility will bring to the tourism, hospitality and retain industries in Greater Toledo will have a long-lasting, beneficial impact on this community and this region.”
Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National Gaming will own and operate the Toledo facility as well as Hollywood Casino-Columbus, also scheduled to open in 2012.
A press release reads, “Penn National’s Hollywood-branded facilities bring the classic style of glamour of 1930s art deco Hollywood to the gaming floor along with the latest technology designed for ultimate guest comfort.”
Penn National officials say they have successfully used the Hollywood Casino brand and theme in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Baton Route, Maine, West Virginia, Mississippi Gulf Coast and Aurora, Illinois markets.
In addition to its developments in Ohio, the company is presently building new Hollywood-themed casinos in Maryland and Kansas that are slated to open in 2010 and 2012, respectively.