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New gaming places to play

Courtesy Revel Resort

Around the country, from Maryland and Ohio to Louisiana and New Jersey, several new casinos are opening this year, some in destinations that are now marketing themselves as gambling destinations for the first time.

And many of the new casinos are marketing themselves as more than just places to roll dice or pull slot-machine levers.

Recent casino projects have brought a new level of branding and imagination to gaming properties and resorts. Visitors will find new casino concepts, as well as designs that integrate gaming into destination-driven experiences.

The new developments give travelers a bigger menu of gaming options from which to choose than ever before. Gone are the days when groups had to travel to Las Vegas; Atlantic City, New Jersey; or Indian reservations to visit casinos. Instead, bank travel managers can plan for their members to spend time at casinos and gaming resorts as part of tours to many different parts of the United States.

Revel Resort
Atlantic City, 
New Jersey
Entertainment takes center stage at Revel Resort, a massive $1.15 billion gaming resort that opened for previews in Atlantic City in April.

“The last thing that Atlantic City needed was another casino,” said Bob Franklin, the resort’s director of national sales. “So this property was built to be an entertainment resort first. We’re a full-entertainment resort that happens to have a phenomenal casino.”

So far the resort has 1,100 operating guest rooms, with another 500 expected to come online this summer. Visitors will find a modern glass facility where windows in all of the public spaces afford a two-story view onto the Atlantic Ocean. The lobby connects to a two-acre garden, and the resort has six swimming pools, including an indoor-outdoor pool and a salt-water pool.

Guests can dine at any of 14 restaurants at the property or stay up late at two on-site nightclubs. National touring acts will headline shows at Ovation Hall, where Beyoncé will perform a grand opening concert on Memorial Day.

“We also have a theater in the middle of the casino that’s open to the public. We’ll have live entertainment there nightly,” said Franklin.

Nature will also be central to the casino itself.

“The casino has windows overlooking the ocean and natural daylight, which is unusual,” he said.

An Ohio trifecta

In late 2009, Ohio voters passed an amendment to their constitution that permitted the establishment of four casinos, one each in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo. Construction has been under way since 2010, and three of the casinos will be open by year’s end.

In Cleveland, Horseshoe Casino is set to debut in a historic downtown building in the spring.

“Currently, we’re slated to open in May, 2012,” said Jennifer Kuczycki, communications director for Rock Gaming, the company developing the casino. “This initial phase is opening inside the historic Higbee building that is currently under renovation. There will be an adjacent parking structure across the street.”

The company is spending more than $350 million to transform four floors of the building into 96,000 square feet of gaming space. Plans call for 2,100 slot machines, 63 table games and a 30-table World Series of Poker room. A buffet restaurant, a food court and a feature bar will round out food and beverage offerings.

Penn National Gaming will open two Hollywood Casino properties in Ohio this year. Hollywood Casino will open this spring on a 44-acre site on the banks of the Maumee River in Toledo. The $320 million project will include a casino with more than 2,000 slot machines and 60 table games such as blackjack, roulette, craps and live poker.

The property will also have four dining facilities, including a high-end steak and seafood restaurant, as well as a buffet and two lounges. Art and decor throughout the property will reflect the 1930s Art Deco era in Hollywood.

In Columbus, Penn National hopes to open the $400 million Hollywood Casino Columbus during the fourth quarter of this year. Plans call for a 130,000-square-foot gaming floor with up to 30,000 slot machines and 100 table games. Dining options and decor will be similar to those of the company’s Toledo location.