A Thistledown horse track and video slots parlor won’t be coming to the Akron-Canton area anytime soon.
Rock Ohio Caesars said Wednesday it will spend $88 million to update and transform the existing thoroughbred track in North Randall into a racino, the industry term for a combined track and slots parlor.
The construction is under way and the new gaming facility should open in the spring, the company said.
The announcement coincided with the Ohio Racing Commission approving the transfer of the track license from Caesars Entertainment to Rock Ohio Caesars, the joint venture of Caesars and Rock Gaming. The company also operates the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland.
Rock Ohio Caesars is turning the main grandstand floor at the horse track into a 57,000-square-foot gaming area with 1,150 slots-like video lottery terminals. Ohio tracks are permitted to operate 2,500 machines.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Kulczycki said the company is comfortable with the 1,150 figure because of the amount of space available. In addition to the video slots, the area will feature a 60-seat restaurant, two food courts and a lounge.
The new gaming venture is expected to create more than 300 jobs.
Rock Ohio Caesars also announced it will upgrade Thistledown for racing fans by installing new simulcast viewing equipment, creating a premium seating area and updating betting windows. Another lounge and a 500-seat restaurant will be updated.
Live horse racing will continue during construction.
“Thistledown guests, employees and horsemen are excited about the addition of VLTs to the facility and the resulting increases in attendance and purses that will be generated for live horseracing meets,” Marcus Glover, Caesars’ regional senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Casino Cleveland, said in a prepared statement.
Rock Ohio Caesars is comfortable with the proximity of the downtown casino and suburban racino, which are less than 15 miles apart.
“Caesars believes that the two properties will be complementary in the Greater Cleveland marketplace. In many jurisdictions Caesars has multiple properties,” Kulczycki said.
Rock Ohio Caesars caused a stir earlier this year when it reached an agreement with the state that would allow Thistledown to relocate to the Akron-Canton area. The company had been eyeing land owned by the Akron-Canton Airport in Green and property along Interstate 77.
That option remains open.
“An opportunity to relocate the racetrack through the development of a new combined racino facility remains an option for the company in the future, but neither a decision nor a timeline for a future move has been made,” the company said.
Rock Ohio Caesars has yet to receive approval from the Ohio Lottery Commission to install the video lottery terminals. The commission is overseeing the expansion of video slots to the state’s seven horse tracks.
The company’s application is being reviewed, a lottery spokeswoman said.
As of Wednesday, Northfield Park in Northfield was the only track that had not applied for a VLT license.
Scioto Downs in Columbus is the only racino in operation in the state.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.