It includes an on-site sports betting venue called "the Book"

Caesars opens new $90M land-based casino in Indiana

Caesars held a brief ceremony Thursday with men and women costumed in Roman dress, a celebration that included a procession of Roman gods, goddesses and centurions, followed by the unveiling of a statue of Augustus Caesar shipped from Las Vegas.
United States
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Caesars Southern Indiana's 110,000-square-foot facility opened Thursday featuring 1,300 slot machines and 70 new poker, blackjack and other table games. Other amenities include multiple bars and lounges, with one overlooking the Ohio River, and five restaurants. Caesars CEO Tony Rodio called the new facility a "mini-Vegas experience," and said the variety of options makes the new location a destination for gamblers and non-gamblers.

Caesars Entertainment unveiled its new $90 million land-based casino Thursday in Harrison County, Indiana, where Horseshoe used to sit on the Ohio River. Company executives held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and opened the doors to the public at noon, giving way to a large crowd. 

Caesars Southern Indiana's 110,000-square-foot facility took 18 months to complete. Despite mounting competition from Churchill Downs' new Derby City Gaming facility, Caesars General Manager Brad Seigel said the combination of a single-level casino with slot machines, table games and a sportsbook ringed by five restaurants and tavern options —lining the perimeter in what's known as the Piazza— makes Caesars more of a complete destination, not just a place to gamble, the Courier Journal reports.

The new property "makes us the very best spot in all hospitality, gaming, restaurants ... everything else," Seigel said. Even though the core business centers on 1,300 slot machines and 70 new poker, blackjack and other table games, Caesars' new sportsbook has drawn new patrons, he said. Guests can place wagers on sporting events in the on-site sports betting venue known as "the Book," equipped with 30 large television screens and a combination of wagering windows and kiosks.

Many gambling operations in Indiana have jumped at the chance to abandon once-required casino boats to shift to river and lake side operations after the Indiana General Assembly approved land-based casinos in 2015. Moving to dry land eliminates many costs related to security and keeping a maritime crew on the payroll, even as the 5,000-passenger “Glory of Rome” Horseshoe Southern Indiana riverboat remained docked and stationary for several years after Indiana lawmakers dropped the requirement that Indiana riverboats cruise on the river. The Coast Guard required annual two-hour cruises, but no gambling took place during the yearly test runs. 

Also, by leaving the four-story riverboat behind — the largest of its kind in the world — casino officials can now utilize an open-floor plan that allows proximity of amenities, as well as natural elements like sunlight.

"We're really pleased that Caesars was allowed to avail themselves from that law change," Indiana Gaming Commission executive director Sara Tait said, according to News and Tribune. "It certainly seemed like it made sense for them from a business point of view. It's a spectacular venue. Patrons are going to be blown away when they see the tall ceilings and all of the detail. It's an incredible property."

The vessel will be pulled from its berth and shipped to a new location after it's sold. There's no timeline yet for that, spokeswoman Jenny Howard said. To celebrate "the boat," as locals call it, the company held a bon voyage party last weekend. The floating property officially closed at 6 a.m. Monday morning, and the staff and crew scrambled to move slots to the new 110,000-square-space inside the casino pavilion.

On Thursday, hundreds of Kentuckians and folks from nearby Indiana counties crowded into a corridor Thursday morning for a place in line to enter the casino when the ropes dropped at noon. Caesars held a brief ceremony with men and women costumed in Roman dress, a celebration that included a procession of Roman gods, goddesses and centurions, followed by the unveiling of a statue of Augustus Caesar shipped from Las Vegas.

Caesars is focused on luring back many patrons who've begun skipping the drive along Ind. 111 to the complex about 12 miles downriver from downtown to stay in Louisville and play at Churchill Downs' Derby City, with its 1,000 historical horse racing machines on Poplar Level Road. Within the opening months in fall 2018, Caesars saw its slots revenue drop as patrons began to try out Churchill's choice.

Indiana approved sports betting earlier this year, and it launched in September. Bettors wagered more than $147 million last month at 11 casino properties, a $50 million bump over October, according to Indiana Gaming Commission revenue reports.

Caesars' handle of $1.4 million and $84,000 in taxable gross revenues last month was the second lowest in the state, but it is expected to pick up with the land-based investment and after the company launches an app to allow gamblers anywhere in the state to place wagers from their phones and laptops.

The new offerings have been a factor in skimming some business, not only in Louisville, Tony Rodio, Caesars' chief executive, told the Courier Journal, but it's not diminished the company's confidence in this marketplace. The new casino space "separates us from what they're delivering across the river." For one, sports wagering "drives a ton of foot traffic," he said.

Rodio called the new facility a "mini-Vegas experience," referring to it as one the nicest regional properties in the entire Caesars portfolio. Because of that, he said it was important to revert to the well-known Caesars name once the move to land was made.

"Certainly, the most iconic brand is Caesars, not just within our company, but I think it's the most iconic name in gaming," Rodio said. "Given our commitment to this market with this $90 million investment and the fact that we're in a more competitive environment, we thought that it was important that when we open up this new facility, we lead with our most relevant brand."

Harrison County, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenues since the casino opened in 1998, is grateful for the newest investment, County Commissioner Jim Heitkemper said. This is "a great big step for Harrison County. (Caesars has) been wonderful to have here."

The biggest concern on the horizon is the potential for the Sherman Minton Bridge, which carries traffic and most patrons over Interstate 64 to Indiana, to close during a planned reconstruction in the next two years. Indiana highway officials are being urged by elected leaders on both sides of the Ohio not to close the span entirely, but to leave at least one lane open to traffic.

Either way, headaches reaching the casino from Louisville risk sending gamblers elsewhere for an outing or an overnight stay. "It's a big deal," Seigel said, but they're hopeful those in charge eventually decide keeping a lane open is best for patrons and businesses on both sides of the river.

Caesars Southern Indiana Hotel & Casino Opening

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