(North Randall) -- Northeast Ohio's first racino -- a combination race track and casino -- opens this evening, as Thistledown racetrack officially becomes Thistledown Racino. Thistledown Racino opens to the public at 5:00 p.m. after an invitation-only VIP opening at 3:00 p.m.
Thistledown Racino general manager Rick Skinner tells WTAM 1100 that there will eventually be 1147 video lottery terminals (VLTs) on the second floor. They were added as part of an $88 million renovation that also includes three new restaurants and two bars. 700 new employees have been hired.
Live thoroughbred horse racing and simulcast racing will still take place at Thistledown, along with other types of entertainment. Skinner points out income from the VLTs can help supplement racing purses, making those purses more attractive to horse owners.
Thistledown Racino is owned by Rock Ohio Caesars, which also owns the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland. Skinner says the two offer different experiences. There are no table games at Thistledown, like there are at the Horseshoe. Thistledown, according to Skinner, offers more of a lighthearted experience, even including entertainment on the shuttle buses that will run gamblers from the parking areas to the main building.
Because of the proximity of Thistledown and the Horseshoe, there has been talk of moving Thistledown to a site that would be in the Akron-Canton area. Skinner says "We have folks working on many different scenarios, and there has been no decision made either way" on whether the Racino will pack up and move.
Ohio's first racino, Scioto Downs near Columbus, opened a few weeks ago.