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CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio’s first casino opened Monday night with long lines of gamblers ready to roll the dice, a glitzy music video instead of a traditional ribbon cutting and a taste of Las Vegas with two bare-midriff showgirls wearing plumed hats and sequined tops.
The video was projected on the facade of the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland and, playing off the window grid on the renovated department store, showed images from the city’s history, sports teams and tourist attractions, with plenty of cards and cascading poker chips for good measure.
The final scene showed the curtain opening to the casino, capping a twilight ceremony in front of a VIP crowd at a reception and gawkers outside police lines.
The general manager, Marcus Glover, asked the tuxedo and gown crowd that got the first chance at the slots to be considerate of dealers. “They’re very nervous. Be a little patient with them,” he said.
Samantha O’Neill, 23, a medical student, studied for a final exam while waiting in the casino admission line with her grandmother, Rose O’Neill, 85, both of suburban Mentor. Samantha won a pair of early admission wristbands and brought her grandmother, a big slots fan.
“I did not bring any money, I’m here to give her support,” said the granddaughter. Her grandmother brought cash but wouldn’t say how much, though she said she would split any winnings with Samantha.
Sam Cardinal and his wife, Stephanie, of Macedonia, each brought $150 and a lot of experience playing the slots and table games at casinos from North Carolina to Canada.
“We always pay our bills before we go gambling, so it’s our free and clear money,” said Sam Cardinal as the couple waited behind a police barricade to enter the casino.
“I never owe a penny before I walk in the door, so it’s all money I can have fun with.”
When Stephanie was asked if $150 was her limit, her husband quickly answered, “Yes.”
The media was barred from inside the casino.
Brad Hirsch, vice president and assistant general manager, said dealers, mostly rookies hired from the area, were ready to shake off first-night jitters and were skillful in a dry run.
“The dealers did exceptionally well. Again, this is a group that’s been training for four and five months on a new career and they did outstanding,” he said outside the VIP reception tent.
Razidus Conard, 33, of Cleveland, said the convenience of the hometown casino would change his routine of traveling to casinos in Detroit, Erie, Pa., and Chester, W.Va.
“It’s right here where I live, easy access,” said Conard, a drywall installer whose favorite game is blackjack.
Craig Jordan, 54, of Cleveland, watching police cordon off traffic lanes around the casino, said he expects the casino to help the city’s economy but doubts he can afford to gamble.
“I believe it probably will work out. You just have to keep all the riff-raff out,” said Jordan, a dishwasher and food prep worker.
“I can’t afford it right now because I’m single and I’m struggling for a living. I’m barely making what I need to make.”
Melvin Bryant, 64, selling a $1.25 street newspaper written by fellow homeless, felt lucky getting a prime peddling spot across the street from the casino and had some advice for gamblers.
“You can’t beat the house, the odds are against it,” he said. “If you do happen to have a lucky streak, you should go along with the lucky streak and move on out, that’s what good gamblers do. Gamblers don’t play to lose, they play to win.”
Ohio voters in 2009 approved casino gambling at four sites in the state with backers promising new jobs and opponents warning about more gambling addicts.
A casino in Toledo will open in two weeks, and casinos in Cincinnati and Columbus are set to open by next year.
A group of unions announced Monday that they had reached an agreement with the operators of the Cincinnati and Cleveland casinos that will allow workers there to be represented by a union of their choice.
The Cleveland casino has about 2,100 slot machines, 63 table games, a 30-table World Series of Poker room and a VIP lounge.
The casino expects 5 million visitors a year.
Rock Gaming, led by Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, developed the casino with Caesars Entertainment, which is managing day-to-day operations and whose brands include Harrah’s, Flamingo and Bally’s.
Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.
By THOMAS J. SHEERAN