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Horseshoe Casino, Cleveland Casino, Opens To The Public (PHOTOS)

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CLEVELAND -- After five statewide votes over 20 years, Ohio is getting its first casino.

Horseshoe Casino Cleveland opens to the public at 9:30 p.m. Monday and the city was ready to close off nearby traffic lanes hours earlier. Most of busy Public Square in the heart of downtown Cleveland opposite the casino won't reopen to traffic until Tuesday.

The 53 percent winning margin in favor of casinos by voters in 2009 came with backers promising new jobs and opponents warning about more gambling addicts. Voters also approved casinos in Toledo, opening in two weeks, and Cincinnati and Columbus, set to open by next year.

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 basketball'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.

The city is revved up to create a good first impression for people who maybe haven't been downtown in a generation, said Joe Marinucci, head of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance which promotes the city.

"If that first experience is good they are going to go home and say, `Hey, you know what? We visited the casino, had a great time. Downtown Cleveland looks great. You ought to try it'," Marinucci said.

Backers are counting on it.

"If you look at the enthusiasm and the support that we've gotten from this entire project, you'll find that the excitement here is at an all-time high," said Rock Gaming's Jeff Cohen.

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