NORTHFIELD — MGM Resorts International “would love to see” legalized sports betting come to Ohio and for the state's racinos to add table games, the president and chief operating officer of MGM Northfield Park said Tuesday.

Those decisions ultimately must be made by state lawmakers and voters, but the global entertainment company is supportive, Chris Kelley said.

"MGM has been a leader in sports betting for over 25 years and we think we've demonstrated the ability to work effectively with lawmakers, with regulators and bring an experience to the guest that they value," he said. "So we certainly would love to see something like that happen."

He added that the company also “would love to see an expansion of table games. We think that would be a great thing for the guests, and MGM certainly has a reputation for excellence in gaming.”

His comments came the same day that a bipartisan bill was introduced in the Ohio House to have the state Lottery Commission oversee sports betting, while the Senate would like to see the Ohio Casino Control Commission take charge.

The seven racinos in Ohio offer only slots-like video lottery terminals, also known as VLTs, and no table games such as blackjack and three-card poker. Only the four casinos in Ohio offer table games and slot machines. MGM has about 2,300 VLTs, the most among the state's racinos.

Kelley spoke with the Beacon Journal/Ohio.com following a ceremony Tuesday to celebrate MGM last week officially taking over the ownership and operation of the racino from Milstein Entertainment and Hard Rock International. MGM Northfield Park has joined other MGM gaming properties, including the Borgata, Mandalay Bay, the Mirage and MGM Grand Detroit.

The company also unveiled a golden, hand-sculpted Leo the Lion statue outside the Northfield Park gaming facility while electronic signs proclaimed "Las Vegas is Here!" and employees handed out "Las Vegas is Here!" T-shirts to guests.

The lion, made by the Las Vegas-based Raymond Co., is 7 feet tall and weighs about 350 pounds. Many workers and guests posed for selfies with the lion after the ceremony.

The unveiling was done against a backdrop of racino players, employees, harness drivers dressed in their colorful gear, community leaders such as Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro and Northfield Mayor Jesse Nehez, and the Cleveland Pops Orchestra with its members wearing white tuxedos.

Shapiro said she expects Northfield Park “to be taken to the next level” with MGM.

“We are so excited,” she said. “The entertainment and the gaming here is second to none.”

MGM has made numerous changes inside the facility, renaming the bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. One name that hasn't changed is Kosar's Wood-Fired Grill, a steakhouse named after Cleveland Browns legend Bernie Kosar.

The company also has removed all the music-themed memorabilia that accompanied Hard Rock.

Racino visitor Dan Glomb of Medina said he is impressed with the redesign inside the facility.

“MGM did a nice job sprucing it up,” he said.

He and his wife, Judy, along with others, said they want to see the racino build a hotel on the property. A hotel has been discussed for a long time.

Kelley said a hotel is “one of those opportunities we will look at. There's potential to grow here.”

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.